One thing became rather evident to Joey Price upon entering St. James High School for the first time.
“Man, (St. James baseball coach Robbie Centracchio) is jacked!” he said. “He’s probably the biggest person I’ve seen so far at the school.”
While the Sharks’ baseball coach isn’t likely to quit pumping iron any time soon, Price knows what a solid weight program can do … and has the rings to prove it.
A proven winner, the former Wallace Rose-Hill (N.C.) High School football coach was officially named Monday night to the same position at St. James. The move was approved by Horry County School trustees.
Native to Horry County, he replaces former Sharks head man Robby Brown, who resigned in January following three years on the job. Price was selected from a final pool of qualified candidates including Central Cabarrus (N.C.) High School football coach Donnie Kiefer and Mark Palmer of Patrick Henry (Glade Spring, Va.) High.
“All three finalists were highly qualified for the head football coach position,” said St. James athletic director Paula Lee. “Joey’s high energy and motivational interview sold the committee along with his proven leadership and knowledge as a proven winner.”
This will be Price’s third stint as a head coach during his 20 years on the sideline, following stops at South Columbus (N.C.) and the aforementioned Bulldogs. In that time, his teams have compiled a record of 238-42 — a winning percentage of 86 percent.
Fifteen of Price’s squads earned league titles, with five of his Wallace Rose-Hill teams winning state championships, including the last three at the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s (NCHSAA) Class 1AA level. In fact, none of his teams won less than seven games in a season.
On the other hand, St. James’ best season (2015) saw it finish 7-5, with the program’s lone playoff win coming that same year. That postseason win is the last taste of victory the Sharks have experienced after being unable to earn a win during the 2016 gridiron campaign.
Fortunately for players returning to the program, they will not be reminded much of what occurred a season ago.
“If everybody, the first thing that comes out of their mouth is, no offense, that ‘you went 0-10;’ it isn’t going to matter anyway,” Price said. “If you can only tell a kid the way he failed and where he failed, and the times we’re going to work off your failures, well, I’m not working off of failures. I’m only working on success.
“The best record in this school is 7-5. That’s the worst record I’ve experienced as a head coach. I don’t say that as bragging, but what I say is winning comes throughout an attitude of how we’re going to approach the game. If these kids buy in, it’ll run itself.”
While some coaches tend to fall under a category as either “run-first: or “pass-oriented,” Price said neither fits his bill.
“Everyone thinks he’s a wing T coach, or he’s a spread coach. I don’t know what that is,” he added. “We’re going to do what we can to fit our kids in order to give them the best possible chance to win a football game. If it means lining up in the full house T, we’ll line up in the full house T. If it means lining up in five wides, we’ll line up in five wides.”
Experiencing more than his share of success in North Carolina, Price understands some find it hard to believe why he’d leave a program he led to the top — to begin a reclamation project at St. James. According to the new Sharks head man, it is the challenge that drives him.
“We won three straight championships, have 16 returning players, nine on defense,” he said of Wallace Rose-Hill. “Lost three games in three years, won five state championships in eight years. This is a challenge.
“These kids are fixing to hit a culture shock of their own when they see me getting them to do things they’ve never done before. And we’re going to work as hard as they can, and hopefully they buy into it.”