They graduated 10 years apart in high school — one from Boyd County and the other from Russell.
But the area’s two newest school superintendents — Brock Walter at Boyd County and Sean Horne at Russell — have more in common than being the new big bosses on the school block.
They are both men of passion and that can be traced back to their basketball playing days in the 16th Region.
Walter and Horne were both tenacious high school basketball players, point guards who led offensively and who devoured opponents defensively. They led with their hearts, which is what they still do today as grown men.
Boyd County and Russell made excellent choices in naming these men as the ones who will lead their schools into the near future. They are homegrown products who have proven that national searches aren’t necessary because some of the best are right here at home.
Back in their playing days, coaches counted on them for defense and leadership — and they never disappointed. It’s no wonder their high school teams were successful. It was simply a case of following the leader.
“They were very smart basketball players and true leaders then,” said Ron Reed, who coached Horne his senior year at Russell and tried to recruit Walter to Milligan College.
“Brock Walter is at least partially responsible for me being fired at Milligan,” Reed said. “I recruited him and he didn’t come. I might still be enjoying life in Tennessee.
“Leaders are made. They don’t just fall out of trees.”
Walter, who graduated from Boyd County in 1982, was the defensive catalyst on the Lions’ back-to-back 16th Region championship teams in 1981 and 1982. He locked down opponents with regularity in those two seasons, making it difficult for them to even breathe, let alone make a play.
In my 30-plus years of covering high school basketball in the 16th Region, I’m not sure there was ever a player any more intense than Brock. Few players ever gave better effort on the basketball floor. There were times when I actually felt sorry for the opponent that Walter was guarding. That’s how good he was on defense.
“I put him in a class with the (Scott) Humphrey boy from Russell who is coaching at Clark County,” Reed said. “Humphrey made that 1-3-1 go at Russell.”
Walter comes from a strong family with athletic ties to the area. His father, Dick, was an outstanding football player at Catlettsburg High School and two of his uncles, Lafe and Grady, were both outstanding football coaches for decades in this area.
Horne, who graduated from Russell High School in 1992, learned how to play defense under Reed, whose gritty, in-your-face style of coaching either broke you or made you. Horne bought into Reed’s philosophy and, like others who did the same, found success came with it.
Horne also had good family structure behind him. His father, Woody, is a barber. Reed remembered when his brother was laid off at Armco, Woody would cut his hair but not take his money. “He said, ‘You have a family you need to take care of. You can pay me when you find work.’ Sean comes from a father who cares about people.”
Reed said Walter and Horne will be good decision-makers who trust their own instincts.
“When you’re involved in athletics, and especially point guards, you’ve got to make decisions,” Reed said. “You can’t wait to call a timeout and have a committee meeting. You make a decision for what’s best in that situation.”
Coaches put their trust in Walter and Horne when they were players. Now the pair has been given the biggest assignments of their lives as the “coach” of two outstanding school systems.
My feeling is both Boyd County and Russell are in good hands for the foreseeable future.
“When the paycheck is on the line, you want guys like Brock and Sean out there leading your team,” Reed said.
Russell has an academic reputation that reverberates statewide while Boyd County’s state-of-the-art high school should make it a player regionally and statewide for years to come. They will only grow stronger with these two men leading the way.
The school boards did their due diligence in naming a couple of hometown boys who have proven to be loyal and passionate about their schools for a lifetime. It’s easy to look on the outside for a fresh face with glossy credentials. But for Boyd County and Russell, it simply wasn’t necessary. The right choices were right at home. I’d have been surprised if anyone else were named.
Congratulations to Brock Walter and Sean Horne and may that passion and zeal they possessed as players on the basketball floor, where I was first introduced to them 30 and 20 years ago respectively, serve them well in their new positions.
One warning: If you’re looking for a fight, lace up your sneakers tight because these guys play to win.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.