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Bill Kirby Jr.: Ike Walker Jr. follows in father’s basketball coaching footsteps

Ike Walker Jr. has coached his Jack Britt High School basketball teams to 300 victories in 22 seasons.


Ike Walker Jr. doesn’t count his coaching victories.

He counts the athletes who helped him along the way in achieving 300 coaching triumphs over 22 seasons at Jack Britt High School.

“To have 300 wins means I've coached some good players over the years,” says Walker, 55, who saw his Buccaneers give him No. 300 on Jan. 4 with a 60-47 victory over Purnell Swett High School.

“I don't believe any coach wins 300-plus games without good players. But most importantly, it means that I've coached some good ‘team players.’ You don't win that many games with selfish guys either.”

Ask any fan of Jack Britt basketball, and their mind will drift back to athletes to include CJ Williams, the former N.C. State athlete who later played for the Los Angeles Clippers and the Minnesota Timberwolves of the National Basketball Association. Or former Buccaneers such as John Fields, Raheem Jolliffe, Daniel Camps and Xavier Nixon, who traded basketball as a tackle for the Indianapolis Colts of the National Football League. And not to forget Corey Johnson, who was instrumental in leading Ike Walker Jr.’s 2003 team to its first 20-win season and later played for Arkansas University at Little Rock.

Or those Buccaneers who became coaches, too, such as Cornelius Snow, Dontrell Snow, Tyron Benders, T.J. McAllister and Alex Harris. You’ll find them coaching from the college ranks to Seventy-First High, Terry Sanford High and E.E. Smith High.

And when it comes to E.E. Smith, Ike Walker Jr. will be the first to tell you the old school and its basketball program hold a special place in his heart.  

‘Be stern but always be fair’ 

“I knew growing up my dad was a coach, but I didn't really focus on that,” says Walker, whose father, Ike Walker Sr., coached the Golden Bulls for 31 seasons. “I did take advantage of the fact that I had access to the gym. I went to as many practices as he would allow me to when I was growing up and I enjoyed sitting on the end of the bench during games. When away games were in town, I'd ride with the team to the game.” 

When it came to E.E. Smith High School, the blood was thick in Ike Walker Sr.’s veins. He graduated from the school in 1950 after playing for the Golden Bulls, who won the N.C. High School Athletic Conference state championship. He would take over the basketball program in 1973. His 1985 team led by Robert Brickey advanced and lost in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4-A finals to Gastonia Hunter-Huss. Walker retired in 1989. 

“I did not play for my dad,” says Ike Walker Jr., who played basketball for South Carolina State University. “My younger brother, Alton, did from 1987 through 1989.  I played against him at Reid Ross. I played for Jake Woullard from 1981 through 1984.”

Ike Walker Jr. landed his first coaching job at Douglas Byrd High School in 1995 as an assistant to Todd Edge.

“The only advice my dad ever gave me about coaching was when I began working at Byrd,” he says. “He said to be stern but always fair. I don't think anyone thought I was stern when I first started because I never yelled at the kids nor the officials. When he said be stern, I took it to mean to have some standards and principles and stick to them.”

When it came to discipline and high standards of conduct and sportsmanship for his athletes, Ike Walker Sr. had few coaching peers. You were representing your school, your fellow students and your family. There would be no compromise. 

Gretchen Walker can attest to what her late father-in-law meant to E.E. Smith High School. 

“Being the lead counselor here at E.E. Smith, I’m always constantly reminded of the huge impact my father-in-law made here,” she says. “When former alum realize that I’m his daughter-in-law, I am met with a myriad of stories. Stories about his teaching philosophy, the great impact he made in the track and field program, as well as the influence he had on the basketball program here at EE Smith.

"I see those same qualities in Ike Jr. My father-in-law would probably say that Ike is a better coach than him and that he’s proud of how he built the Jack Britt basketball program into a well-respected program.  

“He would say that Ike Jr. has had such a significant impact in the lives of young men who are now husbands, fathers and coaches themselves. He would probably smile about the fact that Ike Jr. remains a student of the game attending coaching clinics, seminars and staying in touch with many college coaches.

 “I’ll take any opportunity to shout out about the guy who leaves early and stays late,” Gretchen Walker says about her husband. “Who washes the team uniforms and who mops the (gymnasium) floor because he believes that it’s his job. Some of the exact same things that I know Coach Ike Sr. did. Like father, like son.” 

Isaiah "Ike" Walker Sr. died at age 87 on July 30, 2018.  

They called him “coach.”

‘Outstanding coach, role model’ 

Today, Ike Walker Jr. carries on a father’s basketball coaching legacy.  

His coaching record to date is 304-267 at Jack Britt High School, where Walker has seen his teams win four state sectional titles (2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009); three state Eastern Regional championships (2004, 2008 and 2009); two Mid Southeastern 4-A Conference regular season titles (2003, 2006), a co-Mid Southeastern 4-A Conference title (2004) and four Mid Southeastern 4-A Conference tournament titles (2003, 2004, 2008 and 2009). 

“Coach Ike Walker is an outstanding coach, role model and human being,” says Trace Taylor, assistant principal and athletic director at the Cumberland County school. “The Jack Britt High School men's basketball program has been very fortunate to have a consistent leader, a leader that is selfless and puts the young men he leads first.  

“Coach Walker ensures his athletes work hard, they persevere and grow under his developmental plan.  

“Coach Walker has a great rapport with his current and former athletes,” Taylor says. “They trust his judgment and rely on his wisdom. His devotion to the men's basketball program is exceptional, and he is an asset to Jack Britt High School. We celebrate his 300 wins, and look forward to his success.” 


On a winter evening in January, Demetri Patterson scored 20 points and pulled down eight rebounds, Chris Crosby scored 14 points and Chris McArthur had 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists in leading Ike Walker Jr. to his 300th coaching victory. 

“You did good, young man,” Ike Walker Sr. likely would have told a son. “You did good.” 

Out on Rockfish Road, a new generation of kids plays hoops under Ike Walker Jr. with basketball championship dreams of their own. 

He’s stern. 

He’s fair.  

He insists they be their best not just on the court, but off the court and in the classroom, too.  

They call him “coach.”

Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961.   

Ike Walker Jr., basketball coach, Jack Britt High School, Ike Walker Sr.