The Ringgold Tigers filled their boys' basketball head coaching vacancy on Thursday as Athletic Director Lee Shell announced the hiring of Josh Hensley.
A 2008 graduate of Murray County High School, Hensley had spent the last seven seasons as an assistant with the Indians' program.
He will replace Greg Elkins, who went 182-147 in 12 seasons with the Tigers and had three 20-win seasons, seven state playoff appearances and three region runner-up finishes. Elkins stepped down in early April to take over the girls' basketball program at nearby Heritage High School.
Shell said the job opening attracted some "fantastic" and "very qualified" people, but said Ringgold's interest in Hensley was piqued after hearing about him from other coaches around the region.
"With Josh, it really started with some texts and phone calls to me and Mr. (Ringgold Prinicipal J.R.) Jones saying that we should really take a look at this young man in Murray County," Shell said.
"It's kind of unusual, but you have people in the region that you really trust, coaches and athletic directors. And then you make a couple of phone calls and (when) you get that, you find out that this is a potential rising star in basketball (coaching)."
"I'm excited and I'm fired up," Hensley said. "Obviously, these aren't ideal circumstances to come into with the pandemic and everything that's going on, but I'm ready to get started and I'm ready to meet the players and and sort of go from there."
The new coach said he planned to do a video conference with his new players and their parents soon and went on to talk about the type of team he thinks Ringgold fans will see on the floor.
"You're going to see a bunch of guys that play hard. You're going to see a bunch of guys that do things the right way and we're going to focus on being fundamentally sound," he began. "As far as an offensive and defensive philosophy, I like to play a fast-paced offense and pressure defense, but that will be determined by what kind of guys we have and if we're successful. I like to run and gun, but if we're not successful doing that, we'll slow it up and play half-court offense."
Hensley played for the Indians and later attended the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega as a student only. He got a degree in history education before returning home to start teaching and coaching at his alma mater.
He added that the Ringgold teams he has helped coach against over the last seven years have always been "extremely tough".
"From the outside looking in, that's one thing that you notice about Ringgold," he said. "They're tough, hard-nosed kids. They have sort of this blue-collar work ethic and that really excites me about coming in and working with them."
Hensley also coached football for six years and baseball for two at Murray County, in addition to his basketball duties.
"I just love athletics," he added. "I love being around the students and sort of helping them grow. I think athletics are the best on-the-job training you can have as far as having to be somewhere on time, working hard and being held to a standard."
This will be Hensley's first career prep head coaching job, but Shell added that he and the school administration feel good about the hire, especially after meeting Hensley face-to-face.
"We did practice good social distancing and met eight feet apart," Shell chuckled. "But I was impressed with the way Josh carries himself. He's confident without being arrogant. He's knowledgeable and again, he comes highly recommended. And having played and coached at Murray County, he's been around some really good basketball. Coach (Greg) Linder does a great job down there. He runs a disciplined, organized program and Josh is going to bring some of that here to us."
Ringgold wins region's Sportsmanship Award
In addition to the new hire, the school is celebrating this week as Region 6-AAA named Ringgold High as this year's Sportsmanship Award winner.
"We're very appreciative and honored to have received that," Shell explained. "Coming off of some seasons (in 2019-2020) where we've had some great successes on the field, you're (already) feeling good. But then you put the cherry on top (with) sportsmanship? That means a great deal to us and (it's) something that we've always promoted around here.
"I've gotten a lot of thank-you's and congratulations, but it's really a team effort. It's our coaches. It's our theater production. It's our band and most importantly it's our faculty, staff, student-athletes and students."