CONYERS — Without knowing it at the time, Jarrod Davis was steadily preparing himself, subconsciously, to take over Athletic Director opening at Salem High School.
Originally hired at Salem in June of 2015 to take over the boys basketball program, Davis coached the Seminoles to a 72-37 record in his four years since, all while taking on more responsibilities from Darren Wilkins, who announced his retirement from his AD position last month.
“Each year that I’ve been here, they’ve added on little extra things for me to do,” Davis said. “Help running the gates and things like that. The only time (Wilkins) didn’t bother me was during basketball season.”
When it was brought to Davis’s attention that Wilkins was set to retire at the conclusion of the 2018-19 school year after holding the position for the last seven years, it didn’t take long for the longtime basketball coach to throw his name into the hat of potential replacements.
“I look back and think, that was (Wilkins) seeing how I could handle those things,” Davis said. “So it was something that was ongoing, but was nothing ever definite until this year when he told me he was fixing to retire.”
With his passion for coaching beginning to slope downward and an opportunity to reinvigorate himself in both athletics and education, the decision to step down from his head coaching job and accept the AD opening was made.
“After so many things happening this year in my life personally, it was getting harder to turn that coaching switch back on,” Davis said. “Skill wise, I think I can still do it. But I kept asking myself if it was in my best interest and that’s when I decided to put my name in the AD hat and got enough support from the right people.”
Having coached at five different high schools, including Ramsay High School (Al.), Riverdale, Drew and North Atlanta and tallying upwards of 300 career victories in his 14-year head coaching history, Davis trusted his instinct that it was time to step away.
“I’ve always believed that you have to know when is when,” Davis said. “I know people who have pushed that past when it was time to get out of it. I just realized that this opportunity is going to be better for me. It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come around that often.”
I pushed it as far as I could and now it’s come time for somebody else to take it. It also allows me to take on a new role with different opportunities and different challenges and reinvigorate myself.”
Davis admitted that when it comes to athletics as a whole at Salem, they aren’t where they want to be. But with several coaches and programs in good positions, hopes of growing the school’s success is high.
“If you look across our athletic department, we’ve had spotted success, at some point in time, all around the entire program,” Davis said. “The key is to now get that success pendulum moving at the same time for all of the sports.”
With the different coaching staffs at Salem set for the upcoming 2019-20 school year with the exception of a few positions, Davis said he expects to see all of his programs take a collective leap forward in the very near future.
“I’m excited for our major sports,” Davis said. “Coach Jarrett Laws is in a rebuild situation with the football team where he’s developing a young group. You look at the basketball season that’s going to go from one hand to another with two new coaches. There’s new excitement and that should create some energy.”
Going into our spring sports with baseball and track, we’ve got to try and get them back to where they were. Along with soccer, both boys and girls and getting them back into the playoffs. Coach (Sanders) Dorough did one heck of a job with the boys soccer program.”
In efforts to rejuvenate several Salem programs, Davis intends to enlist the expertise of Chuck Landy, who has spent the past 20-plus years cultivating success as the AD at Heritage.
“Who I really want to sit down with and pick their brain is Chuck Landy at Heritage,” Davis said.
“The success that he has developed at Heritage is a blueprint. I want to ask him what he looked for. How did he manage egos. How did you keep all of them together. If you look at the run Heritage has since he’s been there, I put that up against anybody in the state. You can’t say the name Heritage and look at one particular sport.”
Davis’s change to AD won’t come without some reminiscing on his coaching days, both at Salem and at his other stops. From seeing his former players in the hallways to changing day-to-day routine, stepping away from the court will be tough, he said.
“That’s going to be the hard part,” Davis said. “This is where I’ve been leaning on a lot of people about how to break away. It’s hard to look at them. That was the hardest thing to tell them. It would have been different if I was going somewhere else and leaving the building and not seeing them every day.”
The question is, how do you disconnect yourself from the coaching side to the managerial side? That’s where I’m going to be on the phone talking to different people and trying to look at things differently.”
Even his days preparing for high school games and writing up game plans will be a major thing Davis said he will miss.
“There’s something about getting ready for a Woodward Academy,” Davis said. “Having a Top 5 player in the country coming to play your guys and spending three days scheming on how you’re going to stop this kid from beating you all the way around. Or having the unexpected team that’s going to come in and give you a challenge. Like a Rockdale, who comes here and beats you when they’re not supposed to. That’s the part that I’m going to miss.”
Overall, Davis expects to take the Salem athletic department to heights it has not seen in quite some time and hopes that the Rockdale County community will soon take a notice to.
“Salem is going to have a new look,” Davis said. “We want to produce the best product and make sure that our kids are, first off, good citizens and good people. That our community knows that we’re a viable asset and that we can be a community of three dominant programs.”
The biggest thing is getting our sports level and the Salem name in a positive light that it makes people want to come out to the games and come on over to Salem.”