Enjoying with his job as an assistant basketball coach and special education teacher at Jackson County, Bryan Parker wasn’t necessarily seeking a head-coaching post.
But when Jackson County’s boys’ job came open, it was an opportunity the 36-year-old Parker couldn’t pass up.
“It wasn’t anything I was looking for, but when the opportunity came, I was ready, I think, to make that step and kind of take that chance,” Parker said.
Parker, who has served as an assistant coach at both Collins Hill and Jackson County, will replace Ty Baumgardner who is leaving for an athletic director job in Kansas after one season at Jackson County.
Jackson County athletic director Brad Hayes announced Parker’s promotion to head coach Tuesday evening.
“I am very excited to announce that Bryan Parker will be taking over the boys basketball program at Jackson County High School,” said Hayes, who also worked with Parker at Collins Hill. “Coach Parker has been preparing for this role for a long time and is more than ready. His experience as a player at Parkview High School and Reinhardt University, and his experience as the top assistant at Collins Hill and here at Jackson County, have helped him become an exceptional basketball coach.
“More importantly, coach Parker is an outstanding person who cares deeply about his students, players and our community.”
Parker said he’s grateful to Hayes and principal Jason Wester for the opportunity to serve as a head coach.
“They’re awesome guys … just knowing the guys they are, I’m excited to work for them in a little bit different capacity now,” Parker said.
This will be Parker’s first head-coaching job, a reality that he said hasn’t “truly sunk in yet.”
“But I’m excited to get things going, and talking with the guys, we’re jacked at this opportunity and kind of ready to get going,” Parker said.
Parker added that the season, “is still a ways off, and a lot of things have to work out for us to be able to have a season,” he said, referencing the COVID-19 pandemic, “but we’re all excited about it for sure.”
Parker began his assistant coaching career at Collins Hill in 2011. He worked under Baumgardner his last four years there before coming to Jackson County as an assistant under former coach Chuck Butler during the 2018-19 season.
Parker then reunited with Baumgardner when Baumgardner took over at Jackson County for the 2019-20 season.
Baumgardner, who has 370 coaching wins and a state title to his credit, coached Jackson County to a 7-15 record 2019-20.
“I am grateful for the work coach Baumgardner did for us in his short time here,” said Hayes, who also coached under Baumgardner at Collins Hill, “and wish him the best as he pursues an opportunity that he felt he couldn't refuse in Kansas.”
With Parker, the Panthers will enjoy continuity with a coach who has been with the program the past two seasons.
“I think for our team, it’s good,” he said. “If we were to have a third new head coach in three years, and it was somebody who knew nothing about the program, I don’t think we could continue to move forward like we’ve been doing.”
Parker said he wants to continue to instill the defensive mindset the Panthers established under Baumgardner. Jackson County held opponents to an average of 49 points per game last year.
“Which was insanely low for the talent the we played against,” Parker said.
But he said offensive improvements must come. While rising senior Kalib Clinton is an offensive force, averaging 27.1 points per game last year, the Panthers struggled to find another offensive option.
“We need another scorer consistently,” Parker said, “but I do what the guys to feel like they’re having fun. I know sometimes basketball can get daunting and you feel like you’re getting beat down all the time. I want them to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I think we’re getting close to that.”
That said, Parker and the team hope they’ll get the chance to prove that this winter during uncertain times with a global pandemic.
“I hope we can have a basketball season this year,” Parker said. “I know a lot is still yet to be determined.”