It was a homecoming moment of sorts for Jackie Amos when he was selected to lead Scotland’s varsity basketball team approximately two weeks ago.
Amos has been a Scotland High School faculty member for nearly 25 years, with 20 of those spent on the sidelines of the Fighting Scots’ basketball squad. But as he prepares to replace Michael Dease, who stepped down as head coach earlier in the summer after one season, Amos does so with full knowledge of the expectations that come with being the leader of the Fighting Scots.
When the 2012-13 season begins, it will be Amos’ third stint as the Scotland’s head basketball coach. He also held the same position from 1990-94 and 2002-05.
“I’ve had some success in the past, and every time I’ve been given the reins it’s been during a rebuilding situation,” Amos said. “My plan is to reload this team much quicker than the teams I had in the past. Hopefully the third time will be the charm.”
Though he draws from the extensive coaching resume he’s built at SHS over the past two decades, Amos digs even deeper into the past when guiding the players under his watch.
A member of the St. Andrews University basketball team in the early 80’s, the 6’6” Amos was the dominate post presence for a Knights squad that was the number one-ranked Division III team in the country. While shooting guard Will Peterson packed the bleachers with his electric scoring ability(his 30+ points per game led the country at the time), Amos averaged three blocks and 14 rebounds per game, the latter of which also led the country.
The Knights were poised to win the National Championship in Amos’ junior season. But on the same day that his squad would take the court for the start of the NCAA Division III tournament, Amos pulled his right groin muscle during an afternoon dunk contest with teammates, an injury that rendered him ineffective for the Knights’ tournament run. The team would fall short of its championship goals that year.
When he addresses his player’s behavior on and off the court, Amos often refers back to this incident as an example of the impact a bad decision can make.
“I couldn’t do a thing for my team, and I put it on myself that we lost that year,” Amos said. “That’s why I tell my players to be serious and not play around, because when you go about business the wrong way something always tends to happen.”
After he graduated from St. Andrews in 1982 with a degree in Physical Education, Amos returned to his hometown of Sumter, S.C. to become the head JV coach and assistant varsity basketball coach for his alumni. With Amos on the bench, Sumter High School went 30-0 in the 1983-84 season en route to the AAAA state championship.
As a member of the same team during his high school career, Amos was part of a super athletic squad that featured future NFL first-round pick Terry Kinard, who played eight seasons with the New York Giants and Houston Oilers.
But despite their championship potential, egos and selfishness ran unchecked on the team which caused them to bottom out far below expectations.
“This was a team with an entire lineup of players over six feet tall and had all the talent in the world,” Amos said. “But we never won anything because of our ‘me-first’ mentality. My high school playing days are usually what I refer back to most when I coach.”
Amos considers himself a defensive-minded coach, and seeks to bring that philosophy to a Fighting Scots’ team that finished 10-15 last season under Dease. Though the roster hasn’t been decided upon, Amos will be tasked with coaching a younger, less experienced team that will likely have only two seniors make the final cut.
In terms of goals, Amos’ expectations in his return to head coaching have been tempered. He hopes to bring a competitive, fearless team to the court that can hang with Richmond, Pinecrest and Hoke, all teams that are returning several players from the 2011-12 season.
“In the past, I’ve seen some of our guys enter games firmly believing the team they were playing was better,” said Amos, whose most successful season as a head coach came in 1993-94 when the Scots went 21-6 and made it to the third round of the state playoffs.
“We’re not going to do that this year, period. We will make up for our lack of size and experience by competing until the very last whistle blows,” he said.