C. EVER HORTON
MOUNT PLEASANT — Jody Barbee already knows what it’s like to walk in the footsteps of legends.
Granted, he already had two state championships under his belt in 2019 when he became the boys’ basketball coach at his alma mater, Mount Pleasant High, but he also stepped into a position once held by two of the most respected leaders, to put on whistles Gyms in Cabarrus County: Scott Brewer and Andy Poplin.
Now Barbee is doing it again.
It was announced Tuesday that Barbee was taking over as Mount Pleasant’s athletic director. He will continue in his role as the Tigers’ basketball coach through the end of the season, when he will become the AD chair full-time.
The list of legends is also extensive when it comes to the history of Mount Pleasant’s athletic director, but Barbee is undaunted and excited about the opportunity.
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“These are really big footsteps,” Barbee told the Independent Tribune. “They go from one of the greatest in Larry Honeycutt to Gary Calamari to Phil Furr and then Brad Hinson. It’s big time.”
Barbee will succeed Hinson, who recently accepted a position as Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ sports district.
Mount Pleasant also loses its principal, Russ Snyder, to RSS as he was named the high school executive director for that system.
Hinson has been Mount Pleasant’s AD since 2019 when he replaced Chris Shinn in the role. Under Hinson, several athletic facilities in Mount Pleasant were modernized, including new surfaces for the soccer field, and tennis and basketball courts.
Barbee is poised to take his turn at one of the top track and field positions in the county. He feels ready for it in more ways than one.
A former star athlete for the Tigers, he has encountered some of the most intricate parts of the department over the past few years as he has served as the AD’s assistant since becoming a basketball coach.
But most of all, this is his home, where Barbee grew up the son of a preacher and where he chose to raise his own family, even during the nine years he served as the head coach at Cox Mill High School.
That just seems…right, he said.
“That was my dream job years ago,” Barbee said. “I wanted to come back and coach basketball at some point, but athletic director was always the end goal for me. And being on Mount Pleasant is my home and that’s where I wanted to be because I know the tradition here. I graduated here and I know how important Tiger Athletics is to this community.
“In the back of my mind, you’re always thinking, ‘Mount Pleasant would always be a good place to[be an AD]. I live two or three minutes from the school.”
Still, Barbee was surprised at how quickly his dream job appeared in front of him.
Hinson was respected and much sought after for his skills across the state. He had AD stints in Union County and Cox Mill, and he accepted and then turned down jobs at West Cabarrus and Cary Green Hope before arriving in Mount Pleasant.
Barbee said he expected someone else to call out for Hinson with a big raise, but he didn’t think it would come so soon.
But a few weeks ago, Hinson announced he was going to Rowan County. Barbee said he had expressed an interest in the job to Snyder, and emails were sent to other Mount Pleasant employees to see if any of them wanted it too.
“They conducted interviews on Friday and told us they would make a decision by Monday,” Barbee said. “I met with Snyder around noon on Monday and they offered me the job to go back to classes. I will be teaching a class and doing AD assignments for the rest of the day.”
Cabarrus County Athletics Director Bryan Tyson also gave his blessing to the hire, Barbee said, and now he has a new role.
Barbee joins one of his former Mount Pleasant teammates, Northwest Cabarrus’ Robert Machado, as AD in Cabarrus County.
For now, Barbee’s job will be similar to that of current Cox Mill AD Ty Johnson, who will concurrently serve as boys basketball coach for the Chargers through the end of the 2022-23 season.
Under the circumstances, Barbee said he wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, he took his new job a week into the basketball season, and he felt it was negligent to leave the court and try to hire a new coach at such a critical time.
“I’m going to finish this season,” Barbee said. “This will be my last run. i will be done I’m no longer a basketball coach, effective once we’re done. It will only be the duties of the athletic director. It will be busy the next few months while I adjust to the job but I have some good help in the basketball and AD side. I’ll be fine. It’s just going to be long days.”
Had he been told to make a choice, Barbee isn’t sure how things would have turned out.
“I think if they had to say I had to make a decision whether to give up basketball now or take the AD job, it would have been a much harder decision because this is a really good group of kids,” he told Barbee , whose team is 2-0 up. “I really like training them. But they said it wasn’t fair to give me the job and then say, “Hey, you have to quit basketball,” and the season has already started. That’s not really fair to these kids.”
Four starters returned for the Tigers basketball team this season, including his son Bo.
In 2019, Barbee left his job at Cox Mill — where he built the team into a national force and coached future stars Wendell Moore Jr. (Duke University and the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves) and Leaky Black (North Carolina) — because he wanted to spending time “as a father” watching Bo in both soccer and basketball.
But when an unexpected opportunity arose to replace George Walker (now at North Stanly) as head coach, Barbee decided to return to the bench.
The bonus was that he would be working with Hinson, under whom he had been Assistant AD at Cox Mill, and Coach Bo, a budding freshman.
Now, just over three years later, is Barbee ready to leave basketball for good? Especially if he didn’t coach Bo next season, his senior year?
“That’s me,” Barbee said. “Even when I said goodbye to it a few years ago, in my mind I was ready to let it go because I had done more than most people could ever do for someone training 25, 30 years that I did in a short period of time made span over there (at Cox Mill). It was the talent we had and the kids we had.
“At that point I was okay with that, and I’m okay with that now because I knew this was the job I wanted. And if I don’t go on strike now, maybe I won’t even get the chance to go on strike because I want to retire as sporting director. I think I have 17 years left and I would like to stay 17 more years and finish it and be done.
Barbee said he was in no rush to name his replacement on the basketball team. He said he’ll see who comes in to replace Snyder and then they’ll sit down and discuss options.
Hinson is expected to leave Mount Pleasant by December 9, and Barbee will continue working at the school through the end of the semester. Thereafter he will teach a core class in career and technical education and settle into AD where he will follow in the footsteps of the other successful men who have gone before him.
He feels he had the preparation he needed, from his early days as an assistant under Brian Knab at Cox Mill (now at Waxhaw Marvin Ridge) and later with Hinson at both Concord Great School and Mount Pleasant. Along the way, he has formed a relationship with retired Calamari and Furr (now Director of Communications and Public Information for Cabarrus County Schools).
Barbee said he was blessed to take on such a challenge.
“I think if that job had been posted publicly, if nobody in the house wanted that job, I promise you there would have been 75 applicants for the job,” Barbee said. “I have always felt that Mount Pleasant is one of the greatest communities and schools to belong to.”
And those legendary steps?
“It’s amazing that these guys are establishing the legacy of this school,” Barbee said. “Larry is in charge of the athletic facilities of a new school and does a phenomenal job of designing it, and then Gary comes in and takes things over and does everything that he’s done over the years. I had a close relationship with these guys, and Gary and I still talk from time to time.
“I went to school with Phil and I think Phil carried on the same legacy. He and Brad were social media trendsetters and pushed the game forward in the sports world. I have both types that I can really lean on. I feel like Brad came in when we were in a bit of a lull and really turned that program around. Financially and athletically, I think it’s in the best shape it’s been in a number of years.
“I have some really big shoes to fill. I don’t think I could ever really fill them. All I can do is do my best and try to make the guys proud of how I’m running things.”