North Little Rock hired Gary Davis as their new Athletic Director last week. Davis is a familiar face who has been in the district as a coach of nearly every major sport and as an administrator for the past 33 years.
Davis has a clear vision and some daunting challenges ahead of him. His tenure is preceded by what is widely considered the most successful athletic season in the school’s history and has on it’s horizon a list of challenges, the most daunting being his role in the largest school construction project in the state’s history.
Sports correspondent Bruce Guthrie was able to sit down and ask him five questions about the future of the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats.
QUESTION: What is the state of the North Little Rock Athletic Department as a whole?
DAVIS: Our athletic department has achieved some noticeable success over the last few years, especially last year. We won several conference championships. We won two state championships, and what I think the public doesn’t realize that in what I consider our five major sports (made of 10 boys and girls teams combined), we only 16 paid coaches for those 10 sports. And that speaks highly of the coaches we have in our district.
QUESTION: Every new boss wants to put his stamp on the new job. What is going to be your stamp?
DAVIS: We have some changes coming up at North Little Rock. We just hired a new superintendent who is going to do a great job. Gregg Thompson has now moved over. He has a tremendous job. He’s in charge of Human Resources, but he’s also in charge of Athletics. He is my direct supervisor, so it’s a new position for him even though he’s been in the district a year or two longer than I have. But also we are going to have to combat new construction that is going to change some of our workout facilities, or practice facilities to build a new facility that our voters passed to combine our ninth through 12th at the West Campus, and then moving our seventh and eighth graders to the East Campus. We have a great support staff in our administration. Right now we are just going to be fighting practice facilities and maybe even game facilities for our football and soccer for the next couple of years, and we really need community support finding places for those teams to be able to practice. As far as my stamp goes is trying to organize that. I feel like my job is to serve our coaches and our players, our student athletes with the best equipment, the best facilities, and the best uniforms that I can get them. We want to look good. We want to have the latest technology, and the latest equipment available for our student athletes. We want to put them into this new facility and really have something to brag on.
QUESTION: With all the success, is there room to improve?
DAVIS: I think it’s a matter of time. We’ve got a great football program, we’ve got great basketball programs, and we’ve got great baseball and softball programs. Our softball team has won state championships five times and that is a relatively young program. I would be surprised if we don’t win some state championships this year. I’m not saying we are going to, I’m just saying we are going to be right up there at the top if we don’t. Our coaches do a great job, and I’m thrilled to be their administrator. My door is always open to them. They know they can talk to me. Do we need to make some changes? Yes, we do, but I got into this job a little late this year, so there won’t be a lot of changes this year. We have some scheduling issues that we are going to have to address in the years to come and I think we are going to come up with a plan that will allow our head coaches to be in control of their program from seven through 12. Going to two campuses instead of having Ridge Road, and Lakewood, and Northeast where we had seventh and eighth graders at Lakewood and Ridge Road, and we’ve got ninth graders at East Campus, and we’ve 10th graders at Poplar Street, and our 11th and 12th graders at West Campus. Here in a couple of years, that’s going to change. It’s going to be easier for our head coaches to have direct involvement with all of their players starting in the seventh grade and I think that’s going to be a huge asset for ours programs.
QUESTION: Can North Little Rock become a national entity athletically, and if so, how does it happen?
DAVIS: Being a national entity is something to strive for. I think North Little Rock is going to be the place to be in Central Arkansas as far as athletics are concerned, and not to take anything from our other programs. We’ve got a great drama program, we offer IB classes, there’s a lot of good things about the North Little Rock School District that draws students into our school district. Can we be a national entity? I think we can, but we are going to have to make some changes. We need more assistant coaches and things like that, but can we do it? Yes.
QUESTION: Do you think you have the best coaches in the state right now?
DAVIS: I think we have some of the best coaches in the state. Do we have the best coaches in the state? I’m not going to stab our coaches at all. I think we have some of the best coaches in the state. I really do. I’m behind them 100 percent. I’m going to do what I can to give them everything they need to become that national entity. You know, you can look at the results of our programs over the last few years. Our football team played in the semifinals last year, our baseball team was good, our boys basketball team won the first state championship in years, and they are loaded for bear again this year, and our girls basketball program has been at the top I don’t know how many of the last few years. Since Darryl Fimple has been there, I think he’s won two state championships and been at the top several years. We’ve got a new volleyball coach, Leslie Joshua, and I’m expecting big things from her. Our soccer programs with Mark Gill as our boys coach. We are still in the process of hiring a girls’ soccer coach. Jonathan Calvin and our boys track team won the state last year. Becky Matthews is our girls’ track coach. There’s just a lot of good things going on at our school, and it’s going to be a place where good young coaches and other coaches are going to want to be because in Central Arkansas, we set the bar.