Sparks out as Southmont basketball coach

NEW MARKET — Jake Turner’s time out of the head coaching seat was short-lived.

The former Attica coach was named Southmont’s interim coach Tuesday after Jon Sparks resigned from his position at the helm of the Mounties boys basketball program.

Athletic Director Aaron Charles announced the resignation in a statement Tuesday afternoon, a day after indicating there were no issues with Sparks as coach.

“The administration at Southmont has determined my coaching to be finished,” Sparks said. “And so I have resigned effective immediately.”

Charles declined to provide details for the reasoning behind the move, which comes at an odd time so early in the regular season.

“We’re just focusing on what we’ve got, (and) we’ve got a good team,” Charles said. “So I think that’s our focal point right now, is to prepare our boys, this group of boys, who we think can do a pretty good job this year, and keeping them glued together and trying to be successful. That’s where we are with it. We’re more worried about our kids, so that’s what we’re doing.”

After returning the core of last year’s lineup, the Mounties are off to a good start to the season so far. They’re 4-2 and coming off a 69-61 loss to Cloverdale on Saturday after beating rival North Montgomery 63-55 last week. They host Danville on Friday and are at Greencastle on Saturday.

The early-season success adds to the unanswered questions surrounding the resignation, just six games into Sparks’ sixth season as the head coach at Southmont.

“Coaching is a hard job, coming with highs and lows. This is a low,” Sparks said in a lengthy statement, mostly thanking family, former players and other coaches.

“Though I have worked hard to serve the players in developing their game and encouraging their maturity into adulthood, they have become unwilling to follow,” the statement said. “This is difficult for me, but I am not defined by coaching. I am an imperfect man saved by a perfect grace.”

Sparks took over the boys basketball program beginning the 2012-13 season after Dan Chadd stepped down following a five-year stint, during which Sparks was an assistant on the coaching staff. He also spent time as an assistant coach as part of Desson Hannum’s football program.

Sparks was 50-67 in five seasons and six games as a varsity basketball coach. His first season, the Mounties went 16-6. Southmont finished 11-11 last season.

Turner’s status as interim head coach is only until a permanent coach is approved. Turner teaches English at Southmont High School and served the first six games of the season as the varsity assistant under Sparks. He was 27-42 in three seasons as the head boys basketball coach at Attica from 2014-15 until last year.

Clay Buck has been moved from his position as coach of the junior varsity team to varsity assistant under Turner. Craig Carrell is moving from freshman coach to junior varsity coach. Charles said a new freshman coach will be added to the program’s staff.

Meanwhile, the varsity team plans to move ahead with its veteran group and promising season.

“They’ve got goals as a team that they want to hit and those goals are still all out there for them, and that’s the task that they see in front of them and that they want to achieve,” Charles said. “We have a lot of senior boys so they want to end their careers, kind of like our football boys, they want to leave their mark and have a successful year.”

Full statement from Athletic Director Aaron Charles:

Coach Jon Sparks has resigned his position today as the Southmont High School Boys Basketball Head Coach. Until a permanent coach is approved, Jake Turner will serve as Interim Head Coach. We believe Coach Turner along with the remaining coaching staff will continue to guide our boys’ basketball program that will be competitive on the floor as well as develop our student-athletes as players and individuals.

Full statement from former boys basketball coach Jon Sparks:

The administration at Southmont has determined my coaching to be finished. And so I have resigned effective immediately.

I am thankful for the opportunity to have been the head coach and proud of my record. Three times in the last five years we have finished with double-digit wins and two of the three sectional game wins since 1998. But I am even more proud of the men and women the staff has helped shape. It has been my joy to see the players grow in maturity, becoming men of responsibility.

Coaching is a hard job, coming with highs and lows. This is a low. Though I have worked hard to serve the players in developing their game and encouraging their maturity into adulthood, they have become unwilling to follow. This is difficult for me, but I am not defined by coaching. I am an imperfect man saved by a perfect grace.

I would like to thank my family, especially my wife, Sara. My family has been very supportive of me. Sara has given much of herself to help both the team and me. Until I coach again, I will enjoy increased time with Sara.

I would like to thank the former players. I greatly enjoy them and am blessed to continue to relate to them and talk with them about their present lives. I will miss the ongoing connection to them through coaching at Southmont. I love you guys.

I would like to thank the other head coaches I work with at South. It has been vital to have had support from them and to have mutually encouraged each other even in times of hardship. Coaches Hannum, Oakley, Rash, Line and Nichols have been excellent colleagues and our athletic trainer, Kim Chadd, does great work in restoring the health of our athletes.

I especially want to acknowledge my staff. They do outstanding work. Jake, Clay, Craig and Zach, I really appreciate your input and friendship.

It has been my pleasure to coach at Southmont for the past eleven years.