It was time for Jeremy Byrd to come a little closer to home.
Byrd, who grew up in Grainger County and still lives in Rutledge, has been the girls head basketball coach and head volleyball coach at Cocke County for the past eight years.
However, when the Jefferson County girls basketball coaching job came available after coach Rick Sinard announced his retirement and athletic director Randy Rogers reached out, Byrd knew it was time to make the move.
On Friday, Byrd was announced as the new head coach of the Lady Patriots.
“It’s closer to home and closer to my family,” Byrd said. “Most of my family still lives in Rutledge, so I will be closer to them. The scheduling was really important too being able to practice right after school every day. At Cocke County, I had to wait till 5:30 to start practice sometimes, finish at 7:30, stick around until eight to make sure the kids all had rides home and then not get home until nine. And then do the same thing over again.
“Another thing is the tradition. Girls basketball at Jeff County is always on top. This is a great opportunity for me. I am going to give it my all, and we’ll go from there.”
Byrd comes to Jefferson County following eight years as the girls basketball coach at Cocke County where he compiled a 114-119 record.
Byrd made two appearances in the Region 1-AAA Tournament, including the 2019-2020 season where the Lady Red finished second in the IMAC during the regular season.
During his first season, the Lady Red won the District 2-AAA title. Byrd also served as the volleyball coach at Cocke County since 2018.
He has been named the Inter Mountain Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in both basketball and volleyball.
Byrd informed his Cocke County team Friday morning of his decision.
“I can’t say enough about them (Cocke County),” Byrd said. “That is where I started with my coaching and teaching. That was my second home for eight years. They mean a lot to me. But I felt like it was time when this opportunity came along. Like I told the girls this morning when I met with them, when you have opportunities, you can’t pick and choose when they come available.”
Byrd will have big shoes to fill, replacing Sinard. Taking over the Lady Patriots program in 2012, the same time Byrd started at Cocke County, Sinard compiled a 171-83 overall record, a 63-23 record in District 2-AAA, seven trips to the Region 1-AAA tournament in eight seasons, a region championship, three substate appearances and a Class AAA state tournament berth in 2014.
In the eight years the two coaches squared off, Sinard got the best of Byrd, winning 14 of the 17 contests between the two teams.
Knowing the legacy that Sinard leaves behind, Byrd doesn’t want to make many changes, leaving intact a system that is known to have success.
“Rick did an awesome job and had his girls ready to play every night,” Byrd said. “If you go in and start tinkering things right off, you’re setting yourself up for failure. There will be some changes, but the defensive philosophy will stay the same. Offensively, I like to get it and go. I like to get it out of the net and go and take the best first available shot. There is one offense that I run that Rick ran. It’s a triangle offense. I’m not going to take that away from these girls.”
Byrd is walking into a talented roster for next season. While the Lady Patriots graduated three starters, Makayla Alvey, Cayla Smith and Madee Denton, Alexis Gramann and Kali McMahan return as well as key bench players Tara Scales and McKenzie Alvey.
The Lady Patriots are coming off a 24-6 season, including an undefeated record in the conference.
Gramann was named a member of the District 2-AAA first team all-district squad.
“Coach Byrd has a passion to teach and to coach basketball,” Rogers said. “You can see his desire to succeed on how he coaches and prepares. We are excited to have Jeremy Byrd as the next head coach of the Lady Patriots at Jefferson County.”