Turns out even a high school principal can be educated.
Austin principal Melissa Scott learned the definition of “basketball nerd” while searching for the school’s new varsity boys head basketball coach.
“I reached out to several people who know Major Deacon, and several of them described him as a ‘basketball nerd,’ ” Scott said. “I didn’t understand what that was. Then they explained he’s a student of the game.”
Deacon, 30, was named Austin’s new basketball coach Tuesday.
“I don’t mind being called a basketball nerd because I guess I really am,” Deacon said. “I love the game, and can’t really believe I get paid to coach basketball.”
Deacon becomes just the sixth Austin head basketball coach since the school started varsity play in 1965. He replaces Jake Miles, who left for a teaching position at Hartselle. Deacon is the first Austin head coach who did not come from inside the program.
“The tradition and success of the program is one of the main reasons that I was interested in the job,” Deacon said. “It reminds me of Baker (in Mobile) where I played and coached. Every head coach at Baker since the 1970s was hired from within.
“That’s an important part of the tradition at Baker, and I know it is here, too. I want to continue the Austin tradition of basketball success. I want a program that the Austin community will be proud to have.”
Scott said there were around 40 applicants for the job. Among the requirements was head coaching experience in Class 5A or higher. Deacon was head coach at 7A Baker for two years in 2015-16 and 2016-17. He left Baker for a graduate assistant job at Northwestern State in Louisiana to work on a master’s degree.
Deacon was succeeded at Baker by his former assistant coach, David Armstrong. The Hornets, with many of the players Deacon coached, advanced to the 7A state championship game last March before losing to Mountain Brook. One of Deacon’s best friends in coaching is Mountain Brook’s Bucky McMillian.
“Bucky and I used to joke about who was the youngest coach ever named head coach in 7A,” Deacon said. “I said it was me because I was 25.
“He said it was him because he was 24 when he got the Mountain Brook job. But I always remind him that Mountain Brook was 6A then. So that makes me the youngest.”
As part of his master’s program at Northwestern, Deacon had to serve the second year as an assistant coach. That led him to Thompson. The Warriors went from one win in 2017-2018 to 21 this past season for head coach Dru Powell.
“After that I was ready to be a head coach again,” Deacon said. “I started applying for jobs. I knew a little about Austin from watching film of them while scouting some of our opponents. I asked around and found out about the tradition. I knew it was a job I was interested in.”
A committee whittled the 40 names down to 10 finalists. All 10 received interviews.
“Coach Deacon just blew us away in the interview,” Scott said. “I really think he’s the perfect person to carry our basketball program to the next level.
“The tradition of Austin basketball is important to our school and community. He understands that. He fits the mold of what we need.”
When Deacon describes the style of play he coaches, it reminds one of what his friend McMillian has used to win four state championships at Mountain Brook.
“We are going to pressure you all over the court,” Deacon said. “We are going to get up and down the floor and play hard every second. I think our style of play will be something this community will enjoy.”