The Charlemagne Gibbons era at Newton High School has officially begun.
The Rams’ six-week coaching search came to a close Tuesday with the announcement of Gibbons as their new head coach, officially putting an end to the era of Rick Rasmussen, who spent the previous 14 years as the program’s front man.
Rasmussen resigned from the program on April 9 after accepting an opening at North Oconee.
Gibbons comes to Newton with 18-plus years of coaching experience. Gibbons spent the 2018-19 season as the head boys basketball coach at Starr’s Mill High School in Fayetteville, Georgia. Prior to that, he spent four years as an assistant at Florida Atlantic University and several years as the head boys basketball coach at Morgan County, where he won a Class AAA state championship in 2014.
After hearing of the opening at Newton, Gibbons said it was a no-brainer for him to throw his name into the job applicant hat and hopefully score an interview.
“I was like, ‘Man, the Newton job is open. That’s pretty exciting,’” Gibbons said. “I had some ties to the area and had a good run down at Morgan County. I really like this I-20 corridor of talent that’s right here outside of Dekalb.
“Fortunately for me, I think the administration at Newton was excited about getting the chance to hire me. I went through the interview process and went from there.”
With a community that prides itself on quality basketball and the rich history Newton has provided Covington made Gibbons eager to sell himself on why he should warrant the hire over the 20-plus applicants considered for the job.
“We’re in the south and football is a big thing down here,” Gibbons said. “So when you find places where they really value their football and they really value their basketball, those are places that a high school coach will try to be. Here, they’ve always had a great tradition and they haven’t had very many coaches. I’m probably the first guy in the last 30 years that has been outside of what they have done.”
It will be a little bit different, but that’s exciting. Some of the things we will try to keep the same. We don’t want to come in and be totally different. But I have a lot of experiences, so I’ll put my spin on the program and hopefully that will be exciting for the community.”
A former Conyers resident, Gibbons spent a brief stint as the head boys basketball coach at Indian Creek Middle School in Covington while also serving as the Conyers AAU Director for NewRock Stars and head coach from 2003-05.
His familiarity with the area made it that much easier to leave Starr’s Mill after one season, he said.
“My ties here and living in this area has me excited,” Gibbons said. “My wife and I were here when we first got together, so it’s kind of a homecoming for us, in a way. I’ve always kind of had my eye on Newton County. I originally came and thought I had a chance to work there when I came to Indian Creek. Teaching stuff made it easier for me to go to Indian Creek, but I’ve always kind of watched.”
With the success Rasmussen had at Newton, the 41-year-old said the future of the program is in good hands thanks to the foundation his predecessor was able to lay.
“Seeing the development over the years, Coach Ras did an outstanding job here of developing these guys and making sure that they’re ready for college,” Gibbons said. “With the foundation somewhat already there, me being able to add some things makes it really exciting. The excitement level would be a 10.”
Outside of walking into an already established high school program in Georgia’s highest classification, the backing of Newton Athletic Director Vincent Byams and company has Gibbons eager to make a mark in his newest chapter.
“You’re only going to do the job as good as your administration allows you to do the job,” Gibbons said. “With coach Byams reaching out to me and the interested that they had and where they want to continue to move the program, lets your know the administration is supporting you.”
That was one of the main attractions is just the support that they were offering as we were going through the hiring process. And two, the tradition that they’ve had, the great players that they have had and the community support that they’ve had, they take basketball serious in this area. For me, it was a home run.”
After meeting with the Newton basketball family Wednesday night, Gibbons said that it won’t be long until they are on the court putting up shots and gearing up for the upcoming 2019-20 season starting next Fall.
“I like the guys’s energy,” Gibbons said. “I think these guys really want to kick this thing up to another level and they have been really successful so far. So it’s exciting. As soon as we get past memorial day, we’re going to get in the gym and begin to work. I think the quicker we get the guys on the floor, the quicker you cut out the anxiety of a new coach coming in.”
A busy schedule for the month of June has already started to take shape, Gibbons said.
“We will be in the new Georgia high school camp where all of the colleges coaches can come out and watch the kids play,” he said. “They’ve got a couple of televised deals that they’re doing with hoop explosion, so we’ll be in that. I do some things on campus to bring some teams in, so June will be busy.
“It will probably be a really busy June for somebody that has never coached a team before. It will be a lot of leaning on the fly. I want to get our brand of how we play out there.”
As far as style of play is concerned, Gibbons fans should expect a high-octane, fast-paced Rams squad built on fundamentally sound defense.
“I think we’re going to play a little faster,” Gibbons said. “These kids are great athletes, so I think we really have to play to their athleticism. Defensively, I had a chance to be around a lot of high-level guys over the last few years, so with some of the defensive schemes that you pick up in college, I think we’re going to be a really good dynamic. I think you will see a very aggressive style of basketball, but really playing to our key strengths.”