LUMBERTON — Jeff Lamb knew from first sight that he wanted to apply for the Purnell Swett baseball coaching position.
Lamb and a friend went out to watch the Rams’ Southeastern Conference tournament game at home against Scotland on May 3, and there is where the former coach at the high school and college level knew he wanted to pursue the head coaching vacancy that was set to happen at the end of the season.
“That’s when the seed was planted,” said Lamb, who was approved by the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County on Tuesday. Also approved was Mike Moses Jr., who is set to become the new St. Pauls girls basketball coach.
Before taking the Purnell Swett job, Lamb had coached most recently at West Columbus for four seasons. He also coached at South Stanly and Stanly Community College. With experience at different levels, the game and Lamb’s coaching style is still the same.
“Baseball is baseball, no matter if it’s 1A or 4A or college the game is not going to change,” he said. “It’s always about competing at the highest level.”
He replaces Bryan McDonald, who retired after five seasons with the Rams. McDonald led the program to its first Southeastern Conference title this season and finished with a 77-44 record in Pembroke.
The turnaround that had been put in motion by McDonald is what Lamb wants to continue.
“They had a great season last year and I know there is high expectations. Even though there are a lot of seniors leaving, I still plan on picking up where they left off and to keep improving,” he said. “I want to continue what he has done. … He created an atmosphere to succeed and our plan is to carry that on.”
Lamb said he will bring a very structured environment with him to Pembroke, something similar to what he said McDonald had with the program.
“Players will know their expectations and their roles. I’m all about having fun, but also know there’s time to work hard,” Lamb said. “My goal is to get as many guys that want to go to the next level.”
At West Columbus, Lamb coached and watched scouts come night in and night out to see players like Eric Jenkins and Trey Benton before they made their transitions to play professional baseball and college baseball, with Jenkins getting drafted and Benton now on the roster at ECU. He has a combined high school record of 189-111.
For Moses, it’s all about the hardwood.
Basketball runs deep in his blood, and after playing and coaching at the college level in the area, Robeson County is place that Moses has come to appreciate.
“I’m excited because I’m a basketball guy that has grown up in the game,” he said. “I love Robeson County. This county is attractive to me and I’ve recruited here a lot.”
The new coach to the St. Pauls sidelines is a son of a former Division I player and coach, Mike Moses Sr. The elder Moses was on the 1985 St. John’s basketball team along with former NBA players Mark Jackson and Chris Mullins. That team went to the Final Four before losing to a Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown team that lost in the national title game to Villanova. St. John’s was one of several stops that Mike Moses Sr. had as a college assistant coach, and that has led to the passion that Mike Moses Jr. has for the game.
Moses played for Fayetteville State and then served as a graduate assistant and then an assistant coach under Alphonza Kee. St. Pauls boys basketball coach Corey Thompson also was on that coaching staff and the two have stayed in contact since those days.
“I’m very close with Coach Thompson after working with him at Fayetteville State and he works hard at whatever he does,” Moses said. “It’s going to be great working with him and having him right down the hall for me to pick his brain. He should be used to it by now.”
Moses takes over a team that had a 3-20 record last season under interim coach Eric Govan, and hasn’t had a winning season since the 2011-2012 season. Despite the lack of wins the program has had in the past five seasons, Moses sees potential in the team.
“I’ve done my research and have watched a couple games. I think this team has talent,” he said. “It looks like it’s a matter of putting the pieces together and like anything it’s a work in progress while the foundation gets built.”
His style of up tempo basketball paired with a defense that helps kick start scoring chances is what he sees as a chance to build the foundation with the program in his first year.
“I like my teams to play up pace and I believe in getting up and down the floor and the main thing will be defense,” Moses said. “Defense creates opportunities whether it’s deflections or steals and that gets the game going at a faster pace.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.