Two Horry County high schools now have boys basketball coaching vacancies.
Longtime Carolina Forest coach Brian Brunson announced Friday that he is stepping down as he prepares for full retirement following the 2019-2020 school year, while St. James is “moving in a different direction” from Jeremy Heinold.
Brunson’s resignation comes after a decade of coaching the Panthers.
“I’m at peace with it,” he said. “I feel good for the program. I feel good for its future. And I’m excited about what the next chapter holds me and my family.”
The future likely will include teaching again as Brunson said he’d likely relocate to northeastern Georgia after the 2019-2020 school year. He said that by going to another state he can continue to teach while also receiving full retirement benefits built up in South Carolina.
“That’s what’s best for my family at this point and time. I’m not leaving to go coach anywhere,” Brunson said.
Heinold, meanwhile, became the Sharks’ head coach in an interim role before taking over full time. After three years, however, athletic director Billy Hurston said the administration decided it would be “moving in a different direction.”
“We’ve got some very good athletes and basketball players right now. Jeremy did a very good job of developing them and putting hours in the gym in there with them,” he said.
However, Hurston said that with the program having moved to 5A at the start of the 2018-2019 school year, it was time to seek out a coach with a more in-depth resume.
“We’re looking for somebody that has experience, somebody that’s been successful somewhere else that can come in and build our program up and get it to where we’re competing with the best teams in the state,” he said.
Hurston said the job would be posted in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Carolina Forest will be looking for a boys basketball coach for the first time in 10 years. Brunson said the thing he’ll miss the most is the relationships built over the years.
“I’ve had the pleasure of being around some great people, working with some great assistant coaches. I’ve been supported by some tremendous administrations. And I had the pleasure of being the head coach of some great young men as players,” he said. “It was bittersweet in the sense that you’ve done something for so long and when it’s time to step away you know you’re going to miss it, but I was at peace with my decision.”
Brunson, who also was an assistant coach in football and baseball, said that stepping down from coaching will open up opportunities he didn’t have while coaching year round.
“My wife has been a rock for me. She’s been supportive, she’s sacrificed for over 27 years,” he said. “I’m excited about taking some time and going and doing some much-needed things that we didn’t get to do during Christmas because we had a basketball tournament, we didn’t get to do during Thanksgiving because I was either coaching football or coaching basketball, didn’t get to do during spring break because I was coaching baseball.”
Brunson said that his decision was made without intentions of coaching elsewhere down the road. However, he said he’s not completely ruling anything out.
“I learned a long time ago never say never,” Brunson said. “I used to tell my sister I would never live at the beach because I’m not a beach person as far going and sitting on the beach, but that was 27 years ago and I’ve been living here now for 25 years. I don’t say never to anything.
“If that’s something that is needed or required or expected or something with the situation, you never know. We would definitely entertain that, but that is not my reasoning for seeking another area.”
About a year and half from now Brunson likely will be living elsewhere, whether near a beach or not. And while he and the Panthers program will beginning new chapters, Brunson said he’ll move on with great memories from his time here.
“Looking back, I wouldn’t change any of it. Athletics has been great for me and my family,” he said. “We’ve just been very blessed to have the people in our lives along the way during this journey.”