It’s a homecoming for Justin Henley, and it’s one he couldn’t be more excited about.
After 20 years away, Henley will be returning to Hatton High School to coach the boy’s basketball team.
The hiring was made official at the Lawrence County Board of Education meeting.
Henley will be returning to the school he graduated from and the team he helped lead to a state championship as an All State player in 1999.
“I’m excited to be back. I don’t think there’s any other word to describe it,” Henley said. “I’ve been a lot of different places the past 20 years and I’m excited to be back home and to build upon what coach (Tanner) Tesney has done.”
For Henley, coming back to Hatton to coach the basketball team is like coming full circle.
“I grew up with my house being about 300 yards from the school. I still have the old Hatton gym key on my key. It doesn’t work, but I’ve always kept it as a reminder of what Hatton meant to me,” he said. “Like I said I’ve coached a lot of different places in the past 20 years. I’ve coached in Texas and Mississippi, but I always kept an eye on what was happening back home. My wife is a graduate of here, I’ve got family here, so it’s special getting to come home.”
When news broke of his hire last week, the reception was positive as people were excited to see Henley come home.
“You know that could rub off quick, hopefully it won’t, but it’s great to feel that from the community,” Henley said. “I like to think that that’s a response to my time here as a player. I’m just excited to be able to be in that office upstairs.”
Hatton basketball had a rough time the past decade prior to Tanner Tesney’s arrival two years ago. However, under Tesney, the Hornets were able to get their first winning season in a decade this past year. Now Hatton returns several seniors and has more expectations heading into the 2020-21 season than they’ve had in a while. But Henley says that doesn’t affect anything for him coming in.
“It won’t change much. I’ve taken over a lot of unique situations over the year,” he said. “I have an idea and a plan of how to implement it. The biggest thing right now is just meeting the kids and getting that connection.”
Hatton has gone through several coaches in recent years, but Henley hopes that stops with him.
“Stability is the key and I hope that’s what I’m going to bring,” he said. “You don’t come home just to stay a year or two. I’m in this for the long haul.”
Hatton has a rich history when it comes to basketball, and bringing the Hornets back to that level of success is what Henley wants to do.
“That’s the plan. That’s my goal and the reason I was interested in coming back,” Henley said. “Hopefully we can take that next step, get to Wallace State like the girls have, and become a contender for even more.”