By Devin Golden
Southeast Whitfield High School could have its new boys basketball coach by next week, and the expected hire is someone who has plenty of experience watching the Raiders play.
Also, the Southeast volleyball program — one of the school’s most successful teams in recent history — will be led by someone who knows the Lady Raiders well.
Southeast athletic director Mark Lentych said the school will ask the Whitfield County Board of Education to approve longtime Dalton High School assistant Jim Case for a teaching job at Southeast. If he is approved as a teacher, he will be named coach, as recommended by Southeast Principal Karey Williams and Lentych. Also, Lentych said Bethany Kenemer is the new Lady Raiders volleyball coach after spending seven seasons as an assistant in the program.
Both positions opened last month when Jake Dickey resigned to take a job as the West Forsyth High School volleyball coach.
Lentych said the decision to make Kenemer the coach happened a couple weeks ago but the school has been trying to find a teaching position at Southeast. She has been teaching at Eastbrook Middle School, part of Southeast’s feeder system.
Since Case is an employee in a different school system, he must first be approved as a teacher before being named a coach. Southeast did not need to seek any board approval before naming Kenemer the head volleyball coach, because she already is a Whitfield County School system employee and would have been named volleyball coach even if she remained at Eastbrook.
“She was highly recommended by Jake,” Lentych said of Kenemer. “You can tell she already has that bond with the kids. There were a lot of things that made that decision very easy.”
Kenemer didn’t have any volleyball coaching experience when she joined the Southeast volleyball program seven years ago at the same time Dickey took over as coach after serving one season as an assistant. In those seven seasons, the Lady Raiders emerged as a top program in Northwest Georgia. They reached the second round of the state tournament four times, won the first area titles in program history in 2011 and 2012, won at least 25 matches each season and at least 30 matches twice.
This past season, Southeast reached the Class 4A state semifinals, the deepest run in program history. The team lost three players to graduation — McKayla Burse; Hannah Graham, The Daily Citizen’s 2012 All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year; and Megan Collins, who earned the same honor as Graham in 2011.
Kenemer said she told the team about the news this week.
“They were definitely very excited,” she said. “They were worried someone would come in who didn’t know them and didn’t know Southeast. So I think it was a relief for them that I was taking over the program and we’d continue in that same direction.”
Volleyball programs at public high schools in Whitfield County face an uphill battle in that their feeder schools don’t have programs and players often start without much experience. Kenemer said she and Dickey had a strategy to combat this.
“Coach Dickey and I in the spring do middle school workouts twice a week,” Kenemer said. “We let any Valley Point or Eastbrook middle schooler come to Southeast for workouts.
“We’ve got to get girls exposure so they start playing as early as possible.”
While Kenemer becomes the leader of a program accustomed to success, the new boys basketball coach has a lot of history to reverse. Southeast finished 7-70 in three years under Dickey, including 4-22 this past season. The team was without standout three-sport athlete Rhett Harper for all of the season due to an anterior cruciate ligament tear suffered toward the end of the football season. Chaz Payne, a sophomore, led the Raiders in points (11) and rebounds (11) per game.
Case has been an assistant at Dalton for the past 11 seasons, working for girls coach Jeff McKinney for the first four and boys coach Mike Duffie for the past seven. Dalton’s boys finished 19-8 and were the Region 7-4A runners-up this past season. Case also was an assistant for Dalton’s tennis program.
“He’s the name we’re recommending to the board,” said Lentych, who did not want to speak further about Case before he is approved by the board.
Dalton won all seven of its meetings with Southeast over the past three seasons.
“I’m not totally familiar with all of the features of the (Southeast) program,” Case said. “I am familiar with how we played and scouted them.”
Aside from the Whitfield County board approving the hire, Dalton Public Schools also must release Case from his contract with the school system before he can move to another, Lentych. Dalton’s board meets June 10.
Case said the opportunity “came out of the blue.”
“My wife was looking at things on the website and saw there was a head basketball coach position,” he said. “She asked, ‘What do you think?’ ... My wife and I are believers that God opens up doors for us and we took it.”
Case’s experience before Dalton includes assisting at Cleveland (Tenn.) High School and one year as head coach at West Coast Christian College in Fresno, Calif., where he graduated. He said a change from Dalton to Southeast would be “an 11-year habit” he must get rid of.
“It’s a great group of people,” Case said of Dalton. “I met some fantastic people, coaches, teachers and administrators. They know a lot of people at Southeast and were very complimentative of one another.”