Andrew College coach Justin Newton was announced Wednesday as Reinhardt new men’s basketball coach.
Newton will replace Jason Gillespie, who resigned at the end of the season, following seven years at the Eagles’ helm.
“Just getting up there and meeting the people on campus was great,” Newton said. “I had never actually been to the campus at Reinhardt. I had heard a lot about it, but once I got up there and met everyone, I knew it was a good place to raise a family and take my career.”
Newton is coming off a 24-8 season at Andrew, a junior-college program in the southwest Georgia town of Cuthbert. The Tigers set a program record for wins and included the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association regular-season title, a trip to the GCAA semifinals and the GCAA Men’s Division I Coach of the Year Award for Newton.
“You have to have guys who care and are completely bought in to the way you want to do things,” Newton said. “You have to have talent. We were fortunate to have that there. The next step is getting guys who fit into the system and style of play.”
That system is built around time of possession and defense.
Newton said his teams are patient and deliberate on offense, but he will bring the same aggressive defensive philosophy that allowed his team at Andrew to finish second in the GCAA this past season in defensive field goal percentage and points allowed per game.
“We’re going to press for 40 minutes,” Newton said. “Up 20 or down 20, we’re going to press, and it’s all man-to-man. We’re not wild with it, but we do pick up full-court pressure. We’re going to play a lot of guys and try to wear teams down. We don’t want to give up anything easy.”
Newton will inherit a Reinhardt roster set to return 11 players. Those players may not have been recruited to specifically fit Newton’s system, but he said there is plenty of talent on the roster, and those players will determine the Eagles’ success next season.
“There’s definitely some talent here,” Newton said. “I’ve had a chance to talk with some of them briefly. We have a lot of young guys coming back and, if we put the right people around them, you can be successful. I believe you’re only as good as your returners are. Experience speaks, so those guys will have a lot to do with any success we have this year.”
Prior to his lone season at Andrew, Newton spent two years as an assistant at NCAA Division II Arkansas-Monticello, which he helped lead to a Great American Conference regular-season title and a program record for wins.
Newton also has served as a high school head coach in South Carolina, before making stops at South Georgia State, another junior college, as well as NCAA Division II programs Columbus State and Lee.
Newton said he has learned to relate to players at all levels.
“You just have to be genuine,” he said. “Guys are smart enough to figure out any mind games. You have to be truthful and real with them. If they know you really care about them and want to win, they’ll work hard and run through a wall for you.”
Newton has already begun assembling his staff at Reinhardt, pending administrative approval.
He said he began recruiting with high schools and junior colleges the minute he took the job, and while he may have a later start than some other programs, his goals for his first season have not changed.
“We’re going to try to compete for a championship,” he said. “I don’t know what else you would want to do. That’s our goal. There are a lot of steps and small goals along the way, but we’re going to have a championship atmosphere. Am I promising a championship in Year 1? No, but that’s what we’re going to aim for.”