Jeff Damron

Jeff Damron

Jeff Damron has been loyal to East Carter, so he was content with an assistant’s role on the girls basketball sideline.

Some thought he might vacate the court after his daughter, Abby, graduated in 2015. His son, Josh, wrapped up his high school career as a Raider this past winter.

Jeff Damron isn’t going anywhere, though. East Carter named him the Lady Raiders’ head coach on Monday.

“I coach because I love the game,” Damron said. “I loved being an assistant coach. As somebody that likes to read about and study the game, I was always learning. But I’m excited to put my twist on things and to see some of my stuff in action.”

Damron takes the reins after helping former coach Hager Easterling for 10 seasons. While Damron is eager to lead the Lady Raiders, Easterling’s startling exit wouldn’t have been part of his ideal script.

East Carter fired Easterling on May 8 following 23 seasons at the helm. The Lady Raiders were 511-202 with a 16th Region title under his tutelage.

“That’s one call I didn’t expect,” Damron said. “Coach E’s always going to be a friend of mine and I love him dearly. I prayed about it, and I feel like this is what I’m being led to do. ... I’m stepping into big shoes as far as girls basketball at East Carter.”

Damron, 49, played on East Carter’s 1986 region championship team alongside boys coach/athletic director Brandon Baker and boys assistant Jack Calhoun. He was a sophomore then. He played under former coach Charlie Baker’s direction. Easterling helped Baker at the time.

“Who better to teach you about the game than them?” Damron said of Charlie Baker and Easterling. “I’ve been around some really great coaches. Having friends like Brandon and Jack, too, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of good coaches.”

An electrician at Calgon Carbon for the last 16 years, Damron hopes the Lady Raiders can light up the scoreboard at times.

“I like to get up and down the floor, push the pace,” he said. “With the depth we will have, it should be fun to watch and exciting to play this way. It’s controlled chaos, I guess.”

Taylor Hall was the lone senior on last year’s 15-15 squad.

“These kids are fun to work with,” Damron said. “The good thing is, there’s no disconnect. The kids know me. It’s just about getting them used to me as a head coach. It’s going to be fun.”

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asnyder@dailyindependent.com