It's only fitting that Billy Hurston will succeed Paula Lee as St. James' athletic director.
And it's not just because he's spent the last four years as her assistant.
The two go a long way back and have seemingly been side by side everywhere they've gone since becoming friends as teenagers. Both coached and taught at Socastee together years ago and have both been St. James staples since it opened in 2003.
"Our relationship has always been very, very strong. We could come in and read each other’s mind. We’d cover for each other. ‘If you don’t want to work, I’ll work’ or vice versa," said Hurston, who was approved as the retiring Lee's replacement at an Horry County School Board of Education meeting Monday night. "It’s just been a great friendship and a great working relationship.
"I’ve got tremendous amount of respect for her as a heck of a coach and a heck of an athletic director. She’s just kind of taken me under her wing with this AD thing. I’m just very grateful and just wish her the best."
A committee of school personnel and community leaders chose Hurston over three other candidates, St. James Principal Vann Pennell said.
"There’s not a more loyal Shark in the community that we know of. He bleeds Shark blue," said Pennell, who was part of the committee. "He has tremendous work ethic, endless energy and all that came out in the interview process and the committee saw that and knows that he’d be the right one for the position at this particular time."
Hurston has served in several teaching and coaching positions at the school. He was the Sharks' first head football coach and coached boys and girls basketball and soccer before serving the last four years as assistant AD.
He believes his time on the gridiron sideline and as assistant athletic director have groomed him well for what he called the "final step" of his career.
"When you’re head football coach you’re almost like an assistant AD. A lot of your responsibilities overlap. I’ve always been in charge of facilities since I’ve been here because I know the practice fields and the turf and our drainage problems and stuff," Hurston said. "[Paula] Lee’s done a great job just bringing me along and really for a lot of this year I’ve had a lot of responsibilities. I feel pretty comfortable going in because I’ve been doing it - a lot of the things - for the last five or six years."
Hurston said the athletic department has several openings, including one at head varsity football coach, one of the first major hurdles he'll need to attack. Joey Price announced last month that he's leaving to become a full-time pastor and defensive coordinator Tommy Norwood was named head coach for the interim.
Hurston said the job listing closed Monday and that he will soon begin looking at resumes as the process of hiring a new coach progresses.
"I’m coming right into the mix of it, so no rest. No rest for the weary," he said. "We’ve got several positions we need to fill. Football is obviously a big priority."
Pennell said he believes Hurston is the right man to lead the athletic department as it moves up to 5A in the fall.
"I’m tickled for our school. I’m looking forward to working with Billy," Pennell said. "Right now he’s an assistant AD. He knows the inner workings. He knows some things we need to continue to work on that Paula got started and to see those things completed."
Hurston said he believes his long tenure along the Grand Strand will help as he attempts to continue the growth of the department.
"The good thing is I’ve lived in the community - particularly the south-end community - for about 45 years so I know a lot of the people and I’ve taught a lot of the people and some of their kids," he said. "That helps when you know business people and different people. I’ve had a lot of support and a lot of phone calls today."
Hurston said he looks forward to the challenge of "wearing different hats during the day" and the fact that no two days are the same. Pennell lauded the work of Lee during her 15-year tenure while expressing his joy that another passionate Shark is taking the baton.
After all, Hurston already has big plans for St. James athletics.
"We want to blitz the south strand with Shark stuff and programs and get more people at the games and fill up the gym," Hurston said. "We feel like we’re just a south-strand facility school. You’re just constantly working on branding the Shark name and getting the name out there."