BANNER ELK, N.C. --- We want you to get to know our staff better Bobcat Nation! With many new faces on staff this year, Lees-McRae College Director of Athletics Craig McPhail continues our Meet the Coaches series by sitting down with JT Blair, first-year assistant coach with the men's basketball program. The Bobcats' Meet the Coaches series aims to help you, Bobcat Nation, learn more about the people behind the scenes and on the sidelines guiding our student-athletes through their experience in collegiate athletics.
Craig McPhail (Mac): How did you get started in college athletics?
JT Blair (JB): My life in college athletics began as a player at King College in Bristol, Tenn. George Pitts had just obtained the head coaching job at King, and soon after my high school career had ended I received a call from him, asking if I would be interested in playing there. I had known Coach Pitts since I was little, because my dad played for him in high school. In my eyes, he was one of the best coaches in the state of Tennessee, having won seven state championships.
I have had the passion and desire to be a coach since I was in the 7th grade, and I felt that I could learn a lot from him. Which I did! After graduating from King, I was fortunate enough to be hired by Barclay Radebaugh to the coaching staff at Charleston Southern University in North Charleston, S.C. to begin my career in college athletics as a professional.
Mac: What are your direct responsibilities with regards to the men's basketball program?
JB: My direct responsibilities involve recruiting, on court coaching during practice and games (as well as aiding in the preparation for both), scouting our opponents, monitoring the academic progress of our players, organizing food and travel arrangements just to name a few.
Mac: What does an average day consist of for you?
JB: The first thing I do when I come into the office is check my emails and check to see how our recruits performed the previous night, if I have not already done so the night before. The rest of the morning consists of either watching our game films or upcoming opponents' game films, which I put together in video edited or on paper scouting reports to go over with our staff and our players.
I will usually make time to contact a couple of coaches before lunch as well. After lunch, I am usually doing more of the same while we prepare a practice plan, and identify what we need to work on as a team that day. We'll have practice and then I am typically on the road recruiting three to four times per week.
Mac: What is your most memorable moment in college athletics?
JB: My most memorable moment in college athletics as a player came in February of my senior year at King College. We beat a good Appalachian State team that later that year made it to the Southern Conference Tournament championship game.
As a professional, my most memorable moment was having the opportunity to go on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with our team at Charleston Southern this past summer. I'll remember it for the rest of my life! Seeing our guys really take the time to make a difference in the lives of the people we met was inspiring and humbling. I know that is not an actual moment in college athletics, but it is a memory I would not have had without college athletics!
Mac: What would you say is the most rewarding part of your job?
JB: For me, the most rewarding part of my job is to see guys have special moments and major breakthroughs and successes. Senior Nights and graduations are always emotional for me, and I live for those moments when our players make major improvements as a result of their hard work and dedication, be it on the court, in the classroom, or in life!
Each young man that enters college will have a different struggle, and to watch them grow day by day is incredibly rewarding. I truly feel blessed to have the opportunity to mentor kids through a game that has given me so much, and taught me so many things!
Mac: What makes Lees-McRae so special for you?
JB: Lees-McRae is truly a unique place. There are not many schools that have all the scenery and beautiful sightlines that exist on campus and around the area. Whether it's the leaves turning colors in the fall or the snow-covered mountains in the winter, I am blown away by the beauty of the area.
Additionally, I love the close-knit community feel of the campus. I have been blessed to build so many close friendships amongst the athletic staff here on campus. There is truly a great support system amongst the coaches and administration. It is a wonderful environment to work in!
Mac: Who is your mentor or guide in this profession?
JB: I couldn't even begin to narrow down those who guide and mentor me down to one person! First off there is my father who has coached at various levels of basketball in addition to his job requirements at an electrical company. My dad and I share the same passion for the game of basketball, and he is always there to offer me encouragement, advice, or just to bounce ideas off each other. He along with the rest of my family have been incredibly supportive in the early stages of my career, and I am extremely grateful for all the things they have done for me to allow me to chase my dreams.
On the basketball side I have been incredibly fortunate to be around some great coaches and great people that continue to support me today. Coach Pitts has been a huge influence on my career. I continue to look up to him as one of the best coaches in the profession! Shane Williams (now at Carson Newman) and Nick Pasqua (still coaching at King) are guys I still talk to for help and support from my king years!
At Charleston Southern I was blessed to work with Barclay Radebaugh, who I learned a lot from about coaching, life, and being a professional. I learned a lot from other members of the CSU basketball staff that continue to groom me and help me grow. Bob Richey (now At Furman), Will Jones (now at Jacksonville University), Ahmad Smith, BJ McKie, and Brad Dobbels (current CSU assistants) have all influenced my life as a coach, and continue to provide support and advice for me. Mike Morrell (currently at VCU) has been a major mentor for me. As an assistant at King my freshman year, he really got me started on the track of doing what it takes to be successful in this profession. He was played a major role in my growth as a college coach from that point on.
Lastly, Coach Hardin has been great to work with and learn from. I have known of him for about seven years now, and he has been great at challenging me and guiding me throughout the year. Having the opportunity to be here at Lees-McRae and learn from a proven, successful coach and a great family man is absolutely amazing!
Mac: What do you hope to leave as a lasting impression for this position?
JB: I want to be remembered for being a hard-working, caring person in my time here at Lees-McRae. As much as I want success on the court, I want be remembered for making a positive impact in the lives of our student-athletes and others around campus. I hope to leave the Lees-McRae basketball program better than when I arrived!
Mac: What are your goals for the future?
JB: My ultimate goal would be to become a Division I head coach, and I hope there are many championships on my journey to that goal and when I get there!
Mac: What is your favorite hobby other than sports?
JB: Being a basketball coach occupies the vast majority of my time and thoughts, but if I had other hobbies I guess listening to music (mostly while on the road recruiting these days) would be one of them! I have several TV shows that take up my DVR until I have time to watch them. I enjoy watching and keeping up with all of my sports teams which include the Atlanta Braves, Green Bay Packers, San Antonio Spurs, Nashville Predators, West Ham United Football Club, and all of the University of Tennessee athletic programs.
We hope you enjoyed getting to know a little more about JT Blair. Stay tuned for our next installment in the near future.