Stonewall hires Sanders as its new boys basketball coach

Stonewall Jackson High School has found its next varsity boys basketball coach, and it’s a name that should be familiar to many in the Shenandoah District.

Jim Sanders, formerly the longtime boys hoops coach at Luray High School, will take over the Generals for the 2017-18 season. The Shenandoah County School Board approved his hiring during last week’s meeting.

“We’re real excited here,” Stonewall Jackson athletic director Mike Lenox, who served as the Generals’ boys basketball coach last season, said on Tuesday. “I think the kids are and so is the administration and myself. I think Jim’s gonna do a good job. He’s done very well in the past, won a lot of games and I think he’s gonna do a good job picking up kind of where we all left it off last year.”

Sanders, who spent 14 seasons as the basketball coach at Luray and coached his last game for the Bulldogs during the 2014-15 season, becomes the fourth head boys basketball coach at Stonewall over the past four years and inherits a program that made tremendous strides during Lenox’s lone season at the helm.

Last season, the Generals won 10 games – including six against Shenandoah District competition – and were a win shy of securing a Region 1A East tournament berth. Stonewall had won just three games combined in the previous two seasons.

“I’ve always had an eye on Stonewall,” said Sanders, citing his relationships with a pair of local former basketball coaches in Jerry Walters – who Sanders said got his coaching start at Stonewall before his lengthy tenure at Central – and Ron Smoot, who spent over 25 years at Stonewall before retiring in 2006. “… I know they have a little bit of history there and just, I’ve always thought highly of them in terms of the school and the program.

“It’s been, I guess, a little bit trying for them at times in the past but I’ve always viewed Stonewall as being a school that’s very representative of the rest of the district, and I just think it’s a great opportunity to go in and continue a lot of the success that Coach Lenox had last year and just try to build on it.”

In Sanders, Stonewall Jackson gets a coach who won 204 games over his 14 seasons with Luray, an average of nearly 15 wins per season. The Bulldogs went 14-9 and reached the Region 2A East tournament in Sanders’ final season in 2014-15.

“I love to win,” said Sanders, who is still teaching at Luray High School. “I love to win and to me that means you have to spend a lot of time preparing and working and stuff.”

Even more than the winning, however, Sanders said he “enjoys the heck out of teaching” and “watching kids do a lot of the things they didn’t think they could do” on the basketball court and in the classroom.

“The thing I do remember the most are just the relationships you have with the young men that are playing, working with them through the highs and the lows of your little journey. That means the world to me,” said Sanders, who likened his relationship with his players to a familial bond that lasts long after his players graduate from high school.

“That’s what means a lot to me and I’m looking forward to hopefully having that type of rapport with the young men over there at Stonewall.”

Sanders’ effective start date at Stonewall Jackson is Nov. 1 – essentially the start of the 2017-18 high school basketball season – but he has already met with his new players and has been holding open gym at Stonewall.

Lenox pointed out Sanders’ passion for the sport, his structure and his care for his players as qualities that stood out during the hiring process. Lenox added that Sanders already appears to have gained the respect of Stonewall’s basketball players.

“I’m just somewhat humbled and grateful and honored to be able to do something like this. It means a lot to me, to do things in terms of coaching and stuff. I really appreciate being given the opportunity by (Stonewall Jackson principal Mike) Dorman and Coach Lenox there at Stonewall,” said Sanders, who grew up in Fort Belvoir – he comes from a military family – and had “been around a little bit” before settling down in the area.

“There’s a lot of good things in this area, the Shenandoah Valley here, a lot of good basketball. I’ve gotten an opportunity to meet and be around a lot of great coaches and players and teams. I’m just looking forward to being able to contribute a little bit more before my total run is up.”