Buck James, who led the Camden Fairview Cardinals to three State championship games, winning a title in 2012, has been named the new head football coach at Bryant High School.
James was approved by the Bryant School Board Thursday night at its regular-scheduled December meeting after being recommended by athletic director Mike Lee. He succeeds Paul Calley, the winningest coach in Bryant Hornets football history. Calley resigned recently after 13 years as head coach and 23 years as a coach at Bryant to become head coach at Benton Harmony Grove High School.
Over the last two years, James has served as offensive line coach and assistant athletic director at Little Rock Christian Academy. In nine seasons prior to that, he led Fairview to the eight conference championships and a 90-12 record. He was named the 2010 Arkansas Coach of the Year by the Little Rock Touchdown Club, Hooten’s Coach of the Year in 2012.
“I’m very excited,” James said. “I think it’s a big-time job. I think it’s a big-time opportunity and a big-time challenge. I’m looking forward to meeting the coaches and meeting the players and trying to build on what they’ve already been doing and trying to take it to the next level. It’s been a dream of mine to coach at this level of high school football.
“I’m excited about bringing Buck on board,” said Lee. “You start going through this process of hiring a head coach, in general, and specifically a head football coach that deals with more student athletes than any other head coach, as an athletic director, the guy has to have a heart for kids. The person has to be poised and mature in his decision-making, and he has to have presence to be able to fulfill that role. Buck has all those attributes.
“Once you work through that then you’re looking at, how is he as a football coach, as a tactician, as a practice organizer, as a game manager, as a strength and conditioning guy, and Buck has proven himself over and over in those facets as well,” Lee added. “He brings a wealth of experience. He’s dealt with small schools. He’s dealt with big schools and been successful at every stop. So I don’t expect anything other than that here.
A graduate of Jefferson Prep High School in Pine Bluff where he played on a State championship team in 1981, James played in college at the University of Arkansas-Monticello and has been named to the UAM Sports Hall of Fame. His first job out of college was at Monticello High School, where he was an assistant for renowned head coach Johnny McMurry including a State championship in 1994. He was also the Billies’ head baseball coach.
In 2000, James became the head football coach at Star City and, over five seasons, led the Bulldogs to a 42-16 record including their first outright conference championship and three consecutive seasons of 10 wins or more.
He accepted the head coaching job at Fairview in 2005. He moved to Little Rock Christian in 2013 and helped the Warriors to a 12-1 season in 2015.
He and his wife, Jennifer, have four children, McKinze, Ty, Grayson and Cord Major. McKinze is currently a sophomore guard at Missouri State University in Springield.
“I’ve known Buck for over 20 years,” Lee said. “I’ve seen him climb to the top as a baseball coach. I’ve seen him climb to the top as a football coach. But the reason that Buck was offered this job is because he’s the right man at the right time. He’s the right fit for Bryant right now.
“He was the best applicant,” he continued. “He was the most qualified, most well-rounded applicant that I visited with. And I visited with a dozen applicants face-to-face and there were probably 50-plus other inquiries, phone calls, emails, etc., about this position. It’s a high-profile job. Coach (Daryl) Patton got it going. Paul (Calley) transcended and I expect Buck to take it to great heights just as Paul did after Daryl left.”
Asked about his coaching strategy, James said, “I like to go fast on offense. I like to throw the football. I like to make the field 50 yards wide and 50 yards deep. I like to cater to what our kids can do and what our quarterback can do and go from there. I’ve been everything from throwing it every down to running it down people’s throats. I’ve done it all. But I know kids prefer, if we can, to be explosive, to be fast and to be able to get the ball out and get a lot of people touches. That’s ultimately what I want to do. I want it to be a wide-open type offense. And if we need three tight ends in the game and it’s short yardage, I want to be able to do that.
“I want to be successful in moving the football and scoring as many points as we possibly can and being as efficient as we can be on offense,” he added.
“Defensively, I’ve always been a 4-3 base guy then I go from there,” James continued. “I’ve run three-fronts. I want to be fast. I want to be physical. And I want to be sound. I want to make sure that they have to earn everything they can get on us. I want to create stops and opportunities for our offense. Once our offense can get a chance to score points and get on a roll then I want our defense to be able to play with their ears pinned back and be aggressive and get off the field.”