One night on the bench with longtime South High School boys basketball coach Wayne Wiseman convinced Jayson Gee he wanted to make coaching his lifetime profession.
Almost three decades later, the former Wildcat has fulfilled a dream. For the first time, he’s the head coach of a Division I men’s basketball team. Gee, 47, was named the head coach at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., on Wednesday.
“It’s a tremendous blessing,” Gee said Friday. “I’m certainly ecstatic about it. When you have a lifelong dream and goal and you get a chance to accomplish it, it’s a pretty unique feeling.”
Gee was a senior at South in 1983-84 when the Wildcats went 20-0 in the regular season and were the top-ranked team in the state. A couple years later, when he was on Christmas break from the University of Charleston (W.Va.), he came home to practice with his former team. Wiseman asked him to sit on the bench as a coach for one game.
“I knew after that I wanted to be a college coach,” Gee said.
Gee credited Wiseman and former South assistant coaches Michael Carter and Jim Scoby for laying the foundation for his coaching career. He said Scoby pulled him aside when he was an overweight sophomore and helped him get in shape to become one of the great players in South and Charleston history. He’s a member of both schools’ halls of fame.
Gee was an assistant coach at Youngstown State and Ohio University before becoming the head coach at Division II Charleston, where he had a seven-year record of 160-55. He then spent three seasons as an assistant at St. Bonaventure before moving to Cleveland State, where he has assisted Gary Waters for the last seven seasons.
Gee was named the 10th-best Division I assistant coach in 2011-12 by Daniel O’Brien’s Bleacher Report.
“If you look at my track record and my experience, it made me attractive to (Longwood) because of the rebuilding project that needs to be done,” Gee said.
Longwood plays in the Big South Conference. Gee replaces Mike Gillian, who resigned in March after going 93-214 in 10 seasons. Gillian oversaw the program’s four-year transition (2003-07) from Division II to Division I. It has played a Division I schedule since 2004-05.
“They’re a new Division I program,” Gee said. “There’s not much history and tradition. The No. 1 key is changing the culture. My platform and my success has been centered around the competitive nature of my teams, and their ability to be mentally and physically tougher than opponents. When you’re able to defend, you can dictate and control the game. That’s what I’ve got to establish very quickly.”