The Valdosta Daily Times
The sign above the door still has Shan Garner’s name on it. There is even a Shan Garner plaque sitting on one of the shelves in the corner of the gymnasium office.
That will soon change, though, as Lowndes has hired its newest girls’ basketball coach.
The office is Brittany Ferguson’s new work space. Ferguson, the former All-American at Valdosta State who spent one season as a graduate assistant with the Lady Blazers, was hired as the new Vikettes’ head coach Monday evening when approved by the board of education.
“I am absolutely ecstatic,” said Ferguson, sitting in her office that did feature a few of her plaques from Valdosta State and a lot of nails left hanging in the wall where pictures once hung from Garner’s era. “I didn’t get butterflies until I started holding summer team camp forms in my hand. I said, ‘Whoa, this is real.’ But I am just really anxious to get started.”
Ferguson replaces Garner as the Vikettes’ coach, after Garner took a new job in another field of employment following a 186-56 record that included four Region 1 championships in nine seasons with the Vikettes.
Needless to say, Ferguson, who will teach physical education like Garner did, has rather large shoes to fill as the Vikettes’ head coach.
“I try to not think of it like that,” Ferguson said. “When you try to fill someone’s shoes, you always come up short because you will never be that person. So I try to think that I am buying a whole new pair. This pair is just as shinny, if not even more shinny. I’m bringing in new ideas with a lot of energy.”
With her hire being approved Monday night, Ferguson was introduced to her new team Tuesday. One player that everyone is talking about is All-State forward Tashia Brown, the co-Region 1 Player of the Year in 2012-13.
“I’m being told that she is the player and you can’t help but want to centralize your offense around her,” Ferguson said. “But I also want to make sure I broadcast my other players and make sure they have an equal role and that they help her and she helps them. I want a united team and for everyone to be showcased.”
After years of being a defensively minded team under Garner, Ferguson says she is hoping to implement a fast-paced system with the Vikettes, saying she wants her team to run the floor.
And while she lacks the major coaching experience, Ferguson says her youth and recent success as a player at the college level — she last played in 2011-12, leading the Lady Blazers to the Sweet 16 — will hopefully help her connect as a coach with her new players.
“They way its happened, I think it will benefit me and my kids,” Ferguson said. “I just came where they are trying to go. It is closely connected. What I’ve learned, they are trying to learn. It is not a far disconnect and I should be able to relate to the kids. I was there. I am very comfortable in my ability to coach, but I do understand that there is a lot to learn.”
Although she says acknowledges her lack of experience, she says the experience she has already gained is critical in who she is today.
“I was under great leadership with Kiley Hill and Jennifer Grubbs (at VSU),” Ferguson said. “What more could I ask for? They are great at strategy and they are great at being a people’s coach. You understand that playing for them and coaching for them.”
With the youth of coaching, Ferguson says she plans on reaching out to current coaches and administrators at Lowndes.
“I told coaches here, ‘You know I am going to ask questions,’” Ferguson said. “I said, ‘Don’t give me a number if you don’t want me to use it. Because I am going to be calling.’ I think that is normal.
She also plans on picking the mind of her former coach at Valdosta State.
“With as many times as I sat in that office as a player and a coach, I will probably be there even more,” Ferguson said. “What a resource that is to have that right down the road. A lot of the things I will coach is because of (Hill).”