0618 Zimmerman

Then-Freedom assistant coach Clint Zimmerman (left) and senior guard Gabe Logan share a moment following the Patriots' 2014 state title game win in Chapel Hill. Zimmerman was named the FHS head coach Monday morning.

On the search for a new boys basketball coach for the first time in 13 years, Freedom didn’t have to look very far.

Burke County Public Schools and incoming principal Casey Rogers, who had guided the Patriots throughout that span, announced Monday morning that longtime assistant Clint Zimmerman will take over the reins of the program this winter.

He will be just the fourth fulltime head coach in program history (after Terry Rogers, Joey Davis and the younger Rogers) and sports a 2-0 record after going undefeated in substitute duty for Rogers this past season.

Zimmerman, who grew up in Burke County and played basketball and baseball at Freedom before graduating in 2003, has been on the staff for 11 years after playing both sports and majoring in history at Roanoke College.

“You’re always excited the opportunity,” Zimmerman said. “The program has been in great hands for so long with all three guys who have done it before with Coach Terry Rogers and then Coach Davis and Coach Rogers. The program has been run so well, and I’m just excited to be mentioned with those guys and hope that we can continue to keep it rolling in the same way that it’s always been.”

According to a press release, Zimmerman met with the team Monday morning. He said the team — which features returning starters James Freeman and Aidan Pearson, along with players who spot-started or logged plenty of minutes like Jayden Birchfield, Nick Johnson, Jayden Moore, Ben Tolbert, Bradley Davis and Quentin Rice — has an established culture of being prepared and on time, never criticizing teammates and representing FHS well on and off the court that will make the transition easier.

Casey Rogers told The News Herald he was happy to have someone he’s worked with for so long be able to take the job, and that it was nice to be able to promote from within the program.

“I’m extremely excited and proud of him,” Rogers said. “I know how much this program and our players mean to him and his family. He’s got instant credibility with our players. I’m absolutely confident in his ability to build on the tradition of Freedom men’s basketball. He’s the right guy at the right time.”

According to the release, before accepting the position, Zimmerman said he talked with his wife, Becca, and the Freedom coaching staff.

“My first reaction was to talk with my wife and make sure this was something that would be good for our family,” he said in the release. “For me, her support and her thoughts and concerns were the most important factor in the whole process.

“My next reaction was to reach out to (assistants) Coach (Adam) Shade, Coach (Rob) Noyes and Coach (Rob) Scott and make sure that those guys were going to stay on board. They all do such a great job and make such a difference in the program. I think Coach Rogers will be the first one to tell you that we couldn't have accomplished the things we have over the years without them.”

Zimmerman also has been the head baseball coach since 2010, and will continue to serve in that capacity. The overlap of the end of hoops season and the start of the baseball calendar will be one of the challenges that await him.

“I have a really, really, really good baseball staff with Coach (Blaine) Mull and Coach (Wes) Smith, and we’re adding another coach” Zimmerman said Monday afternoon. “Being able to have class with the baseball guys and letting the other three coaches work, I have no doubts and no problem knowing those guys are going to keep the baseball stuff going.

“It’ll be a challenge. I can’t really tell you what the biggest challenge is going to be because I haven’t done it yet. But we just look forward, and the biggest thing I’m going to have to do is make sure we’re very organized and keep time very well, and not put myself in a spot because we’re not organized that we’re not able to get stuff done.”

According to the release, Zimmerman is the son of John and Kathie Zimmerman, the grandson of Betty Daniels and son-in-law of Bryan and Alani Curtis. He and Becca, a counselor at Mountain View Elementary School, have three children, Luke, Will and Emma. Zimmerman said outside of school, he loves spending time with his family.

Justin Epley can be reached at jepley@morganton.com or 828-432-8943.

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