By Tim Chambers
The University of Tennessee gave a young Pat Head the chance of a lifetime at the ripe age of 22 by naming her head women’s basketball coach of the Lady Vols. Elizabethton followed suit by tabbing Lucas Honeycutt as their next boys head basketball coach on Thursday afternoon at Elizabethton High School.
Honeycutt replaces Len Dugger, who has moved back over to the girls’ side as head coach.
In his first season as the T.A. Dugger head girls coach, Honeycutt guided the team to a 27-0 mark and a East Tennessee Sectional Class AAA championship.
And just like what Head-Summitt did for the Lady Vols, ’Betsy is hoping that this hiring will pay dividends for years to come — according to athletic director Mike Wilson.
“We know it might raise some eyebrows because he’s so young, but we felt like if we didn’t hire this guy then two or three years down the road he’s going to be coaching somewhere else — and we’d be kicking ourselves in the butt,” said Wilson. “We were looking for somebody that could do the job and bring us some stability because we need that right now. We feel like Lucas can bring us that.”
The 25-year-old Honeycutt was a standout guard for two seasons at Hampton before taking his talents to Mayland Community College. There he helped the Mountain Lions set a school record for the most wins in a season with a 20-9 mark.
After completing his associate degree, Honeycutt went on to finish his education degree at East Tennessee State University in 2010.
He’s excited about the opportunity after being chosen over four finalists.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to be a head basketball coach, and I’m privileged to have this opportunity,” said Honeycutt. “I think we’ve got some great kids and some good talent returning who can be successful. I want to bring stability to the program and we can do that by having a good year. I looking forward to the challenge.”
That’s good news for the Cyclone nation, which had seen four head coaches on the boys’ bench over the past five seasons. And the best part of all is that a young Honeycutt played for three head coaches in his four years as a Bulldog.
“Stability is first and foremost important because I value that,” said Honeycutt. “I had already been thinking about some things to do just in case I got the job. We want to get our team in camps right away and play a summer schedule — what we’re allowed by rules to do. That will help give us some ideal as to how we want to approach the start of fall practice.”
Having Dugger and Wilson close by should benefit Honeycutt immensely during his inaugural season. Both have served at one time as head coach of the boys. He won’t have a problem going to them for advice and he’s excited about putting everything he’s learned from his playing and coaching days as an assistant to use.
“One of the things unique about this situation is that the players and I have been through a lot of coaching changes,” Honeycutt said. “I’ll take some of the things that I’ve learned from the different coaches that I’ve played for and use them. I also got to work with coach Jerry White and Ned Smith as an assistant coach, so I’ve learned a lot from them, too. You kind of get to take what you like use it and what you don’t like you don’t you can store it away for later. It was good for me as a young coach to see all these different styles. That’s what helped me become the coach that I am today.”
Wilson said they had a good crop of applicants, but Honeycutt just seemed like the right fit.
“We had four great candidates for the job, but the thing we liked about Lucas is that he’s knowledgeable about the game — I had no doubt about that,” Wilson said. “The second thing we liked was that he has a lot of character and class about the way he carries himself, and the third thing was his work ethic. He works extremely hard — he’s gym rat. If a kid calls and said coach can you open the gym for me to shoot then Lucas would be there. He’ll be available for the players and he’ll work super hard. He’s got great character and integrity and I really like the way he handles himself. It’s always about the kids and not about him. He’s a very humble guy and we liked that.”
Honeycutt will take some time to evaluate things before selecting his coaching staff.
I have an idea,” he said, “but I’ll take my time in choosing a staff because I feel like that’s very important and it’s undervalued by a lot of people. Good help is hard to find and I think you’ve got be real sure about who you choose and who you have out there but your side.”
Honeycutt says he’s happy to be a Cyclone after wearing the Hampton blue and white as a player and assistant coach.
“It doesn’t matter if you love coaching because kids are kids,” he said. “We’ve got some great kids down here at Elizabethton and I thankful to everyone who’s given me this opportunity. I want to make the best of it.”
For Honeycutt, it’s a dream come true.