(Town Crier photo/Trent Fletcher)
Buffalo Island Central knew they faced a difficult task in finding a new basketball coach when Bill Taylor, who had led the Mustangs to back-to-back state championships, announced his resignation to become the new head coach at Springdale High School. The Mustang hierarchy is confident they have found the right fit in Dion Hargrove, who comes to BIC from Hillcrest High School in Missouri.
Hargrove brings an impressive resume of his own, having led Viola High School to the 2002 state basketball championship as well as to a pair of state titles in baseball. In 16 seasons as a head coach, Hargrove's basketball teams have posted a 364-145 record while the Marshall native's baseball teams ran up a 127-49 mark.
"We feel like he is a good fit and the man for the job," said BIC Superintendent George Edd Holland. "He is a quality person who is also a proven winner. He has been a winner everywhere he has been. We have had a good program here and we were looking for someone who could keep us at the same level."
"I spent my first 13 years at a small school and I wanted to get back to that type of atmosphere," said Hargrove. "I am very happy to be the head coach at Buffalo Island Central and am looking forward to the upcoming season."
Hargrove began his career in 1990 at Bradford High School where he was the girls' basketball coach for five years. He then moved on to Viola and took over as the boys' basketball and baseball coach, coming away with three state championships.
During his stay at Viola, Hargrove's basketball teams had 35 and 39 game winning streaks and won over 40 games two straight years. His baseball teams appeared in six straight state tournaments and claimed the conference championship each season.
Overall, Hargrove has led his teams to 10 state tournament appearances, four regional championships, 10 district championships and 10 conference titles. In addition to his success in baseball state tournament play, Hargrove's teams also won four regional titles, five district championships and six conference titles.
Hargrove has been named Conference Coach of the Year in basketball nine times. The University of Central Arkansas graduate was named Head Coach of the East for the 2002 Arkansas High School All-Star game. He was also a member of the All-Star coaching staff in baseball in 1998, 1999 and 2000, as well as being named Conference Coach of the Year four times in baseball.
"I am not looking to come in and try to fill Coach Taylor's shoes," Hargrove said. "That would be impossible to do. Obviously, Bill has done a great job here. We have been good friends for a long time. He encouraged me to come here. I am just going to be me. I just want to try to keep up the success that BIC has experienced in the last few seasons and I will work very hard to make sure the Mustangs continue their winning tradition."
Hargrove looks forward to the upcoming season. "This is a great area for basketball and I know we will be competing in one of the best conferences in the state. I also know about the BIC-Riverside rivalry and am looking forward to those games. I know it is one of the biggest rivalries in the state and I am anxious to get my feet wet on it. I know Coach (Buster) Campbell. I have played against his teams when I was at Viola. He does an outstanding job with his teams and I am really looking forward to the competition.
"I think the success of any coach is being able to assess your talent and then do what you need to do to give yourself the best chance to win, and that's what we are going to try to do."
"I know BIC is used to winning, so there's going to be some pressure," added Hargrove. "I knew that before I took the job. But I put enough pressure on myself to be successful. I am anxious to get started and get going."
Hargrove said besides wanting to get back to a small school atmosphere, he really liked the fact that BIC's administration is so stable. "Mr. Holland and Mr. (Homer) Craig have been here for a long time and that is comforting to know when you come into a new place. BIC's tradition was also a big factor in my decision to come here. The players here know how to win and want to win. Sometimes you take that for granted, but it's not like that everywhere. The facilities here are outstanding. It's hard to imagine there being a better gym in the state of Arkansas in Class AA," said Hargrove.
"Coming here has kind of put me back home. My wife's family is from Bradford and my father works in Millington, Tenn."
The 40-year old Hargrove has been impressed with the reception he has received from the Buffalo Island Central community. "People have really been friendly to me and my family. They have made us feel welcome and comfortable. I know they are passionate about their basketball and that is great. I can't wait to get started," concluded Hargrove.
Hargrove and his wife Stacey have three children. Twins Dillon and Demi will be eighth graders at BIC while Kyra is five years old and will enter kindergarten.