Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Swiney returns to Lonoke as Lady Jackrabbits basketball coach

New Lonoke girls coach Heath Swiney, right, congratulates Lonoke's Haven Hunter during a boys' game during the 2014-15 season. (Photo by Mark Buffalo)

By Mark Buffalo
Staff Writer

LONOKE — Lonoke's new Lady Jackrabbits basketball coach is familiar one to the program.
Former Junior Jackrabbits coach and current Newport boys basketball coach Heath Swiney was hired to replace Nathan Morris during Monday night's Lonoke School Board meeting. Swiney was the Lonoke junior boys coach for five years before spending one season at Newport. Morris was hired as the superintendent of the Two Rivers School District. 
"This is a great opportunity," Swiney said during an interview Tuesday night. "The tradition has been there in both girls and basketball. You don't get an opportunity to get a job like that every day.
"I can go back to Coach [Mark] Hobson, Coach [Daryl] Fimple and Coach Morris."
Swiney coached four years at Bradford before coming to Lonoke for the 2010-11 school year.
This is Swiney's first girls head-coaching job. He does have experience as an assistant for both boys and girls at Bradford during his first season. He also was an assistant coach Lady Jackrabbits softball team.
"I have coached girls basketball," Swiney said. 
Swiney said there will be some things he wants to do different from the previous coach. 
"Every coach does things differently," he said. "Coach Morris has done a great job of getting kids to work. It doesn't matter what kind of offense or defense we run, if the kids don't work, nothing else is going to pan out for you. The kids here are already used to working. I just want to get over there and continue that."
Swiney said Morris had already set up June activities for the team. 
"I'm working on July's schedule," he said. "I want to meet with the kids and talk to them to see what they've got planned. I don't want to play something for a week if I've got 15 kids that are going to be gone that week."
Swiney said he planned to meet the players today. However, unlike most new coaches, he knows most of the players through basketball or having taught them physical education at the middle school. 
"It's basically getting reacquainted with them and see what is going to go on," he said. "With the relationship, I think it's easier to get things going with the girls and Coach [Angela Watson]."
Watson is the girls assistant coach and Junior Lady Jackrabbits head coach. 
"Even though I wasn't on the girls staff, we were both junior high coaches," Swiney said. "We worked together a lot."
Swiney and his wife Courtney, who previous taught at Lonoke Middle School, have two children. Sophie will be in the third grade next year; Anna will be in the first grade. 

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