Jeff Embrey was approved as head basketball coach last week after gaining approval from both the high school site based council and school board.
Embrey has been an assistant coach for five years – the last four under Bill Chumbler who retired last month after guiding the Wildcats to a 79-39 record and three district championships.
TCHS athletic director Taylor Sparks said Embrey was among a final crop of six applicants for the job.
“We always initially look at the top assistant when any coaching job here becomes open, and I’ve always been impressed with how he has handled himself,” Sparks said. “Jeff was the best candidate for the job.”
Sparks said Embrey also received the recommendation of Chumbler.
“It should be a smooth transition for Jeff. He has shown the ability to help where he was needed, and he knows the program having coach J.V. for the past few years,” Sparks said.
Embrey coached the J.V. Wildcats to winning records three of his four seasons on the bench.
His familiarity with the players will be beneficial with the Wildcats returning just one starter from last year’s 21-8 team that advanced to the region semifinals for the third time in four years.
“I’ve been here a while and been around the kids. We have some great kids coming back, and I’ve enjoyed working with them and look to keep the program on the solid ground that Coach Chumbler has established,” Embrey said.
Admitting that the players on the roster can often dictate the team’s playing style, Embrey said he likes to play man-to-man on defense and likes to run the floor on offense.
“A lot of times, your opponent will require you to play a different style. I just have to put the kids in situations to win games,” he said.
The TCHS job will be Embrey’s third as a head coach.
He coached the Mitchell, Indiana High School girls’ team to a 44-36 record from 1991-95.
His first job coaching varsity boys came at Austin High School in Indiana where he guided the Eagles to a 72-39 record in five years as head coach. Embrey posted winning records in four of his five seasons at Austin, including a 22-3 record in 1998-99 and an Elite Eight appearance.
One of the players Embrey coached in his first two seasons at Austin was Western Kentucky standout Anthony Winchester.
After Embrey left Austin, he moved to Lyon County to live closer to his father, who was suffering from health problems at the time.
Prior to coaching, Embrey was a three-letter athlete at Mount Vernon, Indiana High School and earned a college basketball scholarship to Evansville University.
He played for the Aces for two seasons, earning All-Conference honorable mention his sophomore year, before transferring to the University of Southern Indiana so he could play both basketball and baseball.
Embrey ranks fourth on USI’s all-time assist list and was the Great Lakes Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year in 1985, when he also was a second-team all-conference performer and ranked sixth in Division II for free throw percentage.
Embrey said he is hoping to retain John Cunningham and Randolph Crenshaw as assistant coaches for the Wildcats.
Embrey is the first assistant coach to be promoted to head coach since Jim Wallace in 1967.
Sparks said former Wildcat head coach Mike Wright was the other finalist for the job.
“These were the two people we wanted to interview, and the council was impressed with both interviews,” Sparks said.
Wright coached the Wildcats for ten seasons from 1992-2002, amassing a 123-148 record along with two district titles and a regional championship.
Wright was not retained as head coach after the 2001-2002 season, which saw the Wildcats be declared ineligible for the district tournament for exceeding the limit of games played.
Wright has remained employed in the middle school and continues to coach the TCHS cross country teams.
Sparks said the other four from which the initial field was narrowed to included two head coaches and two assistant coaches. He did not reveal their names.