It didn't take the Viola High School administration long to fill the opening in their Athletic Department created when former head basketball and baseball coach Dion Hargrove left less than a month ago to coach at West Plains.
Jeremy Lewis, head baseball coach and assistant basketball coach at Thayer High School, was selected to replace Hargrove at Viola's monthly school board meeting June 9. "We are very fortunate to get a young coach of his caliber. He'll do a wonderful job," said Viola superintendent Marvin Newton.
Lewis, 30, is a 1991 graduate of Highland High School, and also graduated from Arkansas State University.
Upon his graduation from ASU, Lewis spent one year as an assistant basketball coach at Piggott High School, before being named head basketball coach there for the 1998-99 school year. Lewis spent the past four years at Thayer, where he was part of a basketball staff this past season that guided the Bobcats to their first Final Four appearance since 1961. The Bobcats' baseball team ended this year in the finals of the district tournament under Lewis' guidance where they were edged out by defending champion Ellington.
"We had several applicants, and we interviewed the top four," Newton said. "Some were straight out of college and had no experience, and others had a lot of experience."
Lewis' northeast Arkansas roots, along with his experience, played a big role in his selection at Viola.
"We took into account that Jeremy played under Ronnie Brogdon at Highland, and we know what kind of coach Ronnie is. Then Jeremy had a good record at Piggott," Newton said. "And the last four years working with Cliff Hawkins (athletic director and head basketball coach), who is a quality person. So he has a good background."
Lewis will coach junior and senior boys' basketball as well as baseball at Viola, along with some teaching duties.
"Jeremy's just six hours away from his master's degree. Like most coaches, he's certified to teach P.E. and health, but Jeremy is also certified in social studies, which is a big plus," said Newton. "He's a strong teacher in the classroom, which is important to us."
The Longhorn basketball team claimed the 2002 Class A state title with a win over Delight, and they advanced to the quarterfinals of this year's tournament before losing to eventual champion Weiner.
Hargrove led the baseball Longhorns to back-to-back Class A titles in 1998 and 1999.
This year's Longhorn squad made it to the final eight of the Class A Tournament, before falling to Omaha.
"I grew up playing basketball here (northeast Arkansas) and that's where my coaching career began," Lewis said. "This is a great opportunity. It's always been my goal to return to Arkansas to coach. I've heard a lot of great things about Viola. I'm excited to start."