Higgins, new FHS hoops coach, relates to Ads’ 'preppy’ image

Farragut High School welcomes Jon Higgins, a former Tennessee Volunteers Honorable Mention All-SEC guard with 122 starts [1999-2003], as its new varsity boys basketball head coach.

Higgins’ high school experience in metropolitan Cleveland, Ohio, allows this 36-year-old, having five years head coaching experience with Knoxville Central’s varsity boys, to understand the Admirals’ “preppy” stereotype.

Saying he was one of the top high school “combo guards” in the country in 1998, “Shaker [Heights] is not much different than Farragut. … [At UT], Everybody looked at me like I didn’t belong. The things they would say to me: ‘You speak preppy,’ because I’m well spoken, because I went to a school like Farragut,” Higgins said in front of about 45 current and prospective FHS basketball players for the 2017-18 school year Friday afternoon, April 21, in FHS library.

However, “My parents, in order to put us in a school system like Shaker, sacrificed a lot in terms of having things,” he added. “… When I started playing at [age] 11, the shoes I was wearing on my feet were my sister’s shoes,” three sizes smaller than he needed.

As for why Higgins moved to Farragut, “The reputation this school has is amazing,” he said before addressing the student/athletes. “It’s a wonderful opportunity. I told coach [Donald] Dodgen [FHS athletic director] in my interview, ‘I feel like this is the premier school in East Tennessee.’”

Although Higgins said, “It was an extremely tough decision. I love Central,” he added about coming to FHS, “It’s hard to pass up.”

Ryan Siebe, school principal, introduced Higgins.

“I’m really excited about next basketball season,” Siebe told the gathering. “… When we finished [interviews] it was pretty clear to us who was the leading contender.

“This is a man who I’ve worked with in a couple of different settings. … We were together at Austin-East, we were together at Fulton,” Siebe added.

Higgins said he did not know his Central five-season coaching record, but added, “We improved every single year. … Last year [2016-17] we won 24 games and made it to the Region [2-AAA] semifinals, which is as far as Central has ever gone in basketball.”

Saying he became “a coach on the court” as a UT Volunteer, Higgins added, “I wanted to be a basketball coach probably since I was in high school. I loved my high school basketball coach up in Shaker Heights, Ohio.”

Rating his strongest coaching qualities, “I’ve got great patience that I’ve learned over time,” Higgins said. “… I feel like I’m an intense guy. I love to win and hate to lose.”

A strong proponent of man-to-man defense, “I push kids to be the best. … There’s no reason why we can’t be the best team in this area,” he said. “… I’ve played against some of you in the summer. I see shooters, I see height, I see toughness.”

Moreover, “We’re going to try and teach you things you can use the rest of your life,” Higgins added. “Hard work, discipline, what it means to fight through adversity.”

Siebe said the school had “about 30 applicants” for the job, from which Higgins was one of eight called in for “two rounds of interviews,” a coaching and a teaching interview. Higgins will teach physical education at FHS.

Higgins went from UT to Austria, playing professionally in Europe for a few years. He came back to Knox County as an assistant coach under local legend Jody Wright at Fulton for three seasons before heading to Central.

Higgins and wife, Beth Higgins, have one daughter, Baylor, 3.

He replaces Chris Cool, varsity boys skipper for seven seasons before resigning a few weeks after the 2016-17 campaign. Cool’s best season was 2015-16, earning District 4-AAA Coach of the Year honors after leading Farragut to become one of 4-AAA’s top teams.