Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.
After a successful career coaching small school girls basketball programs in West Texas, Grady’s Jim Avery began to start looking to make the big jump to a higher classification.
Before he even picked up the phone, Northwest ISD athletic director Joel Johnson reached out to Avery to discuss the opening at Byron Nelson. Darren Nelson decided to give up coaching after experiencing some health concerns.
Johnson and Avery crossed paths in the same district in the 2000s when Johnson was the head football coach and athletic director at San Saba and Avery was at Tuscola Jim Ned. That history meant something when Avery was named Nelson’s new head coach in late April.
“It was perfect,” Avery said. “My wife and I had decided that we were going to raise our kids in smaller towns. Our oldest had just graduated from high school and my wife told me that if I wanted to start looking for that job, this would be a good time. Then I heard from Joel. He asked me if I would be interested in the Nelson job. Here I am.”
The 55-year-old Avery has averaged nearly 24 wins per season. He won the 2008 Class 2A state championship with Jim Ned. He then returned the program to the 2012 state tournament before losing to eventual champion Weatherford Brock in the semifinals. At Grady, which is near Midland, Avery directed the team to the regional tournament twice.
Stretched by travel and the end of the school year, Avery has only met the team and other members of the program once. That should change by the end of June when his relocation is complete. Avery will continue to ingrain himself in the community when he holds his summer camp June 13-16.
“My message to them was that I’m about winning,” Avery said. “We’re going to work hard. We’re going to rebound and play defense. We’re going to teach them the skills.”
Wherever he has coached, Avery had believed in creating an environment that is player friendly. By that, he doesn’t believe in a methodical pace. He wants it to be full court. The defense creates the offense.
“Over the years, we’ve traditionally done a full court defense,” Avery said. “Obviously, we can’t press everything. But we’re going to try. I like to keep things simple. It’s more fun to coach and the players are into it.”
Nelson last made the postseason in 2014 when it was a Class 5A school. In 2015-2016, the Lady Bobcats went 16-14. Avery should inherit an intriguing roster led by sophomore three-point shooter Alexia Matheus, junior 6-1 post Sloan Johnson, sophomore 5-10 post Hunter Roach and senior guard Hannah Sellinger. Sellinger missed the 2015-2016 season with a torn ACL. The Nelson junior varsity went 23-2.
Nelson is moving into a new district for the next two seasons (5-6A) with Carroll, Hurst L.D. Bell, Euless Trinity, Lewisville, Lewisville Hebron, Flower Mound and Flower Mound Marcus.
“Moving up in classifications isn’t going to be a shock,” Avery said. “I took my Jim Ned teams to the Whataburger tournament and we played 5A teams. This team looks young and eager. If we work, then we’re going to compete.”