Photo: Jason Shields, pictured during a 2019 game, recently resigned as head coach of the Hokes Bluff High School girls basketball team to accept the women’s head basketball coach position at Snead State. (Courtesy of Alex Chaney)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
After 23 years and almost 700 games of coaching varsity high school girls and boys, Jason Shields decided to make the jump to the next level of basketball.
Shields recently resigned as head coach of the Hokes Bluff High School girls basketball team to accept the women’s head basketball coach position at Snead State Community College in Boaz.
He will continue to teach at Hokes Bluff for at least one more year.
Shields last season guided the Lady Eagles to a 25-9 record and a berth in the Northeast Regional Tournament semifinals.
“I always thought it would be neat to get the chance to coach and recruit at the college level,” said Shields, who has been head coach at Hokes Bluff for the past 12 years.
“There’s been some opportunities to apply at different places, but with my kids being in school, I wanted to make sure that I stayed around for them. I wouldn’t have traded that for anything.”
Shields’ daughters Carlie and Kristen both played varsity basketball for him at Hokes Bluff and Shields helped with the boys varsity when son Brack played. Carlie was a two-time All-Messenger basketball Player of the Year. She finished her high school career with over 1,400 points and earned a basketball scholarship at Piedmont (Ga.) College.
Kristen graduated this year, leaving Shields with the chance to explore opportunities in junior college.
“I just felt that it was meant to be,” said Shields. “[Snead State] offered me the job, and I took the next step. It’s going to be different, but I’m excited about it. Snead is a good community that supports its athletics, and it’s another opportunity to invest in people and help them get an education, which is the most important thing.”
“We’re excited to welcome Coach Shields to the Parson family,” said Snead State Athletic Director Mark Richard in a press release. “We know his work ethic, coaching knowledge and experience will be a great asset to our program.”
Shields broke the news of his resignation to his Hokes Bluff players via a virtual zoom session, which he said was difficult since he considers all his players, both former and current, as extended family.
“What I’ll miss most is not so much the coaching but the investment I have in those kids and the impact I have on their lives as a teacher,” he said. “I’m a big relationship guy, and I’ve had great relationships all my players. I’m still in contact with about 90 percent of them. But the good thing is about junior college is that I’ll have the opportunity to make even more relationships because [the players] are in and out of the program in two years.”
After graduating from Hokes Bluff in 1988, Shields attended Gadsden State before earning an undergraduate degree in secondary education from Jacksonville State University in 1994 and master’s degree in education from JSU in 1997.
Shields went 495-196 in his 23 seasons as a varsity head coach at Cherokee County and Hokes Bluff. He compiled a 237-93 record at Cherokee County from 1993-2004 and went 258-103 at his alma mater from 2009-2020.
Shields’ coaching hardware includes 12 county championships, 11 area championships, two regional championships and one state championship. He was named the Etowah County Coach of the Year six seasons in a row from 2012-2017 and coached in the AHSAA North/South all-star basketball game in 2014.
With the exception of the 30-second shot clock, Shields does not see any major changes with regard to in-game coaching.
“I think the shot clock will help defensively, because we won’t have to play it as long. In high school if you’re undermanned, you can limit your [offensive possessions] and hold the ball. In college, you’d better not be undermanned, because you’ve got to take a shot every 30 seconds.”
Shields said the biggest difference in college will be not having the daily contact with most players as does a high school coach.
“At Hokes Bluff, I’ve been coaching a lot of the girls since the third grade. Now, I’ve got to meet these young ladies for the first time and try to convince them to play for me. The name of the game [in junior college] is going out and getting some players.”
Toward that end, Shields developed and maintain a number of contacts over the years whom he will rely upon for information on potential recruits. He acknowledged that he has limited access at the present time due to the COVID-19 virus social distancing restrictions and the fact that the ma-jority of the junior college recruits have already signed for the 2020-21 season. Shields has six scholarships left.
“It’s a little late in the game right now, but I’m really working hard to find some players to fill out the roster,” he said. “We’ve got some good players, like the second-leading scorer in the conference [in Connie Clark]. I also know [2019 Southside High graduate] Alexis Thompson, and she got to play a good bit last year. I’m trying to find the pieces we need to help us be effective. It’s not the best situation to start out in, but for me that makes it more of a challenge, and I do like a challenge.”