Carlton Terry is no longer the interim Conway football coach.
The longtime Tiger assistant was given control of the program on a permanent basis Monday, ending a search process that required just shy of three months. It will be his first full-time head coaching job, although he’s been in charge of the program since June.
In the fall, Terry made a bit of history when he became the first head black football coach at Conway and just the second in Horry County Schools history. Considering Conway’s own history with race and football - the 1989 player boycott made national headlines, has been an on-again, off-again topic of conversation and later spawned a book - his hire could help change some of the remaining negativity.
“I’ve been a part of Conway football for many years. There’s negative perceptions in different programs, schools, everything. I’m sure there are some negative perceptions, but that doesn’t mean there was anything bad going on Conway,” Terry said. “For many years, I had to defend my program. That’s part of being a coach, being a part of a program. There are things that you are going to have to defend. You can’t control people’s perceptions.”
And yet, in one 12-game season and over the course of the last several months, Terry proved time and again that he was so much more than a temporary stand-in atop the program.
He was named the Palmetto Champions Lower State Coach of the Year for Class 5A in the fall after leading the Tigers to a 10-2 mark.
In many ways, then, the full-time appointment was a logical next step for a man who had already spent 23 combined years at Conway as an assistant in various roles under Chuck Jordan. Terry also played for Jordan and graduated from the school in 1987.
He was named the interim coach in June following Jordan’s arrest for an on-campus incident with a student. Jordan was placed on administrative leave. And while criminal charges were later dropped, Jordan’s career at Conway ended in November without him coaching another game. He departed with 283 victories, good enough for eighth place in state history.
In his place, Terry didn’t just keep Conway from falling apart; he led a talented team to the Region VI-5A title. There were no major player defections or attendance drops.
“That was taken into consideration when they decided to hire me, the way that things were handled during a tough time,” Terry said. “That couldn’t have been done without the help of some great coaches and great players who bought into the program. It’s a program that been established there for so long. Not many things changed. It was consistent for the players and the coaches.”
Conway Principal Lee James did not immediately return a message seeking comment. However, during Monday’s district work session, Horry County Schools spokeswoman Lisa Bourcier confirmed Terry’s appointment to The Sun News. It ended a process that began in December when the job was posted and continued with on-campus interviews with candidates over the last two weeks. Aynor’s Jody Jenerette was one confirmed coach who also had multiple interviews with the committee.
Jenerette, the longest-tenured coach in Horry County since Jordan’s departure, has led Aynor to a 56-83 record, six playoff appearances and three playoff victories over the last 13 years. Prior to accepting the job at his alma mater, he coached for six years at Conway alongside Terry and Jordan. He was the offensive line coach from 1999-2003 and served as the offensive coordinator for his final year. Like Terry, Jenerette was named the Lower State Coach of the Year by the Palmetto Champions last fall in Class 3A.
However, in the end, Terry’s immediate and long-term connections to the school and his success from this past season gave James and the rest of the committee reason to make this move.
He had received vows of support from players and parents, fellow members of the current Conway coaching staff and even Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson, a Tiger grad.
“Relief. It’s a big relief,” Terry said of Monday’s news. “It’s something that I’ve wanted to take on and I’m just glad I got the opportunity to lead our young men using the game of football. … I had some opportunities to apply other places. But Conway is where I wanted to be. It’s great that I can accept this job.”