EAST JACKSON’S Matt Gibbs is certainly a busy man these days.
In addition to his upcoming wedding, the 28-year-old took over as the Lady Eagles’ head basketball coach at the beginning of June, guiding his new team through three weeks of practices and scrimmages in his first head coaching assignment.
Gibbs — who has served the past two years as a boys’ assistant basketball coach at East Jackson — succeeds former coach Katie David who resigned earlier this month.
“They had a really great leader in Katie (David),” Gibbs said. “I know that was tough for her and them. But they hit the ground running and really kept working hard.”
And East Jackson, 6-21 last year, appears to have gotten off to a good start under Gibbs.
The team just returned from a team camp at Presbyterian College, where the Lady Eagles finished with a winning record.
“We were pretty successful there,” Gibbs said. “We won more than we lost there and I’ve been very pleased.”
For Gibbs, becoming a head coach fulfills a longtime goal.
“That’s been my dream since I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to play for a living,” Gibbs quipped.
Gibbs’ previous assistant coaching experience before coming to East Jackson includes a stint at Martin Methodist College in Tennessee. He comes from a coaching lineage. His father was head coach at Blackshear High School and Long County High School in the 1970s and 1980s and his uncle coached at Fitzgerald in the 1980s.
“I just kind of followed in their footsteps,” Gibbs said.
A former point guard, Gibbs played basketball at Hart County, graduating in 2003, and in college at both Georgia College and Emmanuel.
Gibbs said he believes in an up-tempo brand of basketball and used the month of June to start implementing it.
“They’ve really taken to that,” Gibbs said. “They’ve kind of picked it up in stride … I feel like it’s the most fun way to play.”
That style of play should fit in well with a number of guards returning for East Jackson, like Kelsey Palette and Kayla Thomas among others.
“We’re very guard-oriented,” Gibbs said. “We’re very perimeter oriented, and I figured that out this summer, and we’re going to play to that strength.”
Gibbs pointed to in particular to the leadership Palette, a rising senior, demonstrated at the Presbyterian camp.
“She really took on a leadership role and helped me and helped the other girls,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs said already being at East Jackson has helped him into his transition as the new girls’ head coach.
“It’s definitely been a lot easier,” Gibbs said. “Both coaching staffs (the boys’ and the girls’) talk and we communicate a lot together … I definitely had a little bit of inside knowledge about what areas we needed to improve and the areas that we’re successful at. It has been a good transition.”
David talks about decision to step down from EJCHS post
SEEKING a better balance in her personal life and professional life, former East Jackson girls’ basketball coach Katie David stepped down back on June 1.
She coached the Lady Eagles for two seasons, compiling a 14-39 record. David will continue to teach health and physical education at the school.
Her motivation for the move was to have more time to spend with her 14-month-old child.
“I just need to reserve more time as a mom,” David said. “It’s a personal decision.”
She said the decision was certainly not an easy one, pointing to the family atmosphere that she feels exists in the Lady Eagle program.
“The most fond memory that I have from the team and from East Jackson and from basketball is the sense of camaraderie,” said David, who also listed her team’s win over Jackson County a couple years ago as one of her top memories at EJCHS. “Just the commitment and the effort, the willingness to get to a different level — to walk away from that, it just hurts.”
David, who’s been around basketball all her life, hopes to return to coaching one day.
“But right, now my priorities have been shifted basically,” she said.
David said she’ll continue to support the East Jackson hoops program.
“I’m going to be at a lot of games, I hope, with the little one,” she said.
I'm pretty surprised to hear Coach David resigned. She was a great coach and really cared about her team. I understand why she made that decision and I wish her the best. I know Coach Gibbs will do a great job as the new head coach.