The puzzle pieces continue to fall into place as the clock ticks relentlessly toward the start of Scott County’s first year since the 1970s with two high schools and dueling athletic programs.
Existing powerhouse Scott County High School delivered the latest rumble on Friday, confirming the promotion of two prominent members of its athletic family to heavier duties.
Twenty years into his superb stint at the helm of the SCHS girls’ basketball program, Steve Helton will diversify that job description, adding the title of athletic director.
Helton walks into the footsteps of Austin Haywood, who slides over after one year to take the same post at the new Great Crossing High School, and Haywood’s predecessor, Daniel-Taylor Wells, who is now district-wide director of athletics.
He will continue to coach the Lady Cards, whom he led to the past two 11th Region championships, their fourth and fifth in his tenure.
“This is another step toward longevity,” Helton said. “I’m going into year 23 with the school district and year 20 as head coach. I do want to get into administration someday, so this is a first step to what hopefully down the road is the final chapter.”
Also, little more than a week after it was announced that Scott County would lose three-time softball state championship coach Jeff Portwood to the Great Crossing start-up, SC assistant and freshman coach Billy James has advanced to the top job.
Helton is one of only four active KHSAA girls’ basketball coaches with 400 career wins. He and the Lady Cards hit that mark Jan. 22 in a district win over Henry Clay.
SC entered the tournament with only one loss before falling to Owensboro Catholic in the quarterfinals of the Sweet 16. Even with the split of the talent pool this summer, Helton expects to have three starters back from that team.
“It’s always like a puzzle,” Helton said. “We have some good pieces to that puzzle if we can put it all together.”
Helton was speaking from the coaching perspective, but the same words apply to his rookie year as overseer of all the school’s programs.
“I’ve always been a big believer in surrounding yourself with people who are better than you are,” Helton said. “Our basketball staff, our players, they’re going to do what they do. Our athletic office is going to do what it does. Our athletes, our fans, they’re going to do what they do. I keep telling people we’re still going to be Scott County.”
Helton will coach against his longtime assistant, Glenn Wilson, and at least two of his former players at Great Crossing this winter. Most of his coaching staff remains intact, however, led by Helton’s wife, Tara, who heads up the junior varsity program.
Recent weeks, Helton said, have been a busy time of coaching summer basketball, following son Colton’s travel baseball and basketball interests, and getting up to speed with his new obligations.
Just don’t get the idea that Helton plans to hang up the whistle and clipboard anytime soon.
“Along with all these extra duties, I’m definitely not finished coaching,” he emphasized. “I have plenty of years left in me on the sideline.”
It is a year of transition for boys’ basketball, too. Billy Hicks, who coached Helton at Corbin and welcomed him out of college to his staff, has retired, handing the reins to Tim Glenn.
“There certainly are going to be some things for me to juggle, and there will be a lot of new things for me to learn, but I’m incredibly grateful to (SC principal) Ms. (Meocha) Williams for giving me an opportunity to fill that role.”
Scott County’s 2018-19 program was state runner-up in football, boys’ basketball and boys’ track field, and with Olivia Gallagher in the singles bracket of the girls’ tennis tournament.
Softball is the recent standard bearer at the state level, winning KHSAA championships in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
In addition to his connection to those teams, James, 45, has coached numerous fastpitch travel clubs to success at the regional and national levels.
Portwood was named the first GCHS coach on June 4 and is expected to bring most of his other assistant coaches along with him.
Only three players graduated from this spring’s Scott County team. Those Lady Cards were in a clear reloading mode but still won 21 games, captured the school’s 14th consecutive district title and reached the region semifinals.
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.