THOMASVILLE — When Ann Ferguson became the head coach of the Thomasville women’s basketball program prior to the 2018-19 hoops season, she brought with her the expectation that she would teach young women how to play and lead.
After three seasons of guiding the program to success on and off the court, she is now preparing to do the same for the young men at Thomasville High School. In the process, she is making history.
Ferguson became the first woman to be hired to lead a men’s varsity basketball program in Davidson County. Thomasville Athletic Director Steve Bare said the search brought an exceptional group of individuals into the building, but none whose resume or credentials could top Ferguson’s, he said.
“We interviewed some really good candidates,” Bare said. “In terms of putting the entire package together, Coach Ferguson came out on top. Number one, she’s a known quantity. We’ve had three years to see Coach Ferguson work, see her basketball acumen, her interaction with our kids and their families. She’s done an incredible job. I think she’s a great basketball coach.
“I know there are going to be some people who think or believe that there is another factor involved, but it is really and truthfully because she has proven she’s a good basketball coach.”
While employed at the high school, Ferguson has cultivated a program that embodies the characteristics the parents and educators in Thomasville wish to see instilled in their students. Those traits are transferable, she says, to the men’s program.
“I have been able to develop relationships over the last three years, not only through my position as women’s basketball coach, but also as the health and PE teacher,” Ferguson said. “These young men are going on to be dads, and they’re going to have jobs. They’re going to be a part of this community, so we want to do a really good job in setting them up for future success after their basketball careers are over.”
Anecdotally, Ferguson is believed to be the fourth woman in the modern era to lead a men’s basketball program in North Carolina. She acknowledged that there have probably been others who have done so, but perhaps they predated social media or their hires might have even gone unrecorded.
Regardless, Ferguson said the historical aspect of assuming the position is significant to her only in the impact it could make in the lives of others.
“I didn’t pursue this job so that I could be the first; I took this job because I’m a basketball coach, and it’s a heck of an opportunity,” Ferguson said. “I spoke to our girls [last week], and that was not an easy conversation, but I just wanted to impress upon them that when I was in high school, I always wanted to be a coach. … There was this inherent sense that only 50% of the jobs were available to me, and I just grew up thinking that’s just the way it is.
“In going after the women’s jobs, I was still going to have to fight men for those jobs. That’s just the way that it is. I think there is an aspect of this that, like I told the girls, if you can see it, you can be it. So maybe there will be a girl in the stands who sees a female coaching young men that maybe sparks the thought, ‘Hey, I can do that too.’ ”
Ferguson becomes the leader of a program that is a five-time state champion. The school’s last title came in 2007. Since that time, expectations for the program’s win-loss record have receded from the outsized projections of the earlier part of the millennium.
The core principles of the program, however, have not changed.
“The banners are cool, and the pictures in the lobby are cool, but our job is really to impact kids in a way that prepares them to impact this campus,” Bare said. “Now I hope we win a lot of games along the way, but the most important thing is for them to walk off this campus and be productive. I think she just fits the bill.”
Staff writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 336-888-3578, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.