For all of the inevitable expectations that come with his new job, Coffey isn’t particularly obsessed about being compared to the state championship skipper.
“I have an idea about how I want to play. I just have to get the kids to buy into it,” he said.
It’s not that Coffey harbors any negative associations with Goforth. He isn’t interested in ignoring, upstaging or downplaying his predecessor’s accomplishments at J.I. Burton.
Coffey simply appears more motivated to measure up to his mentors: Robin Dotson, Aaron Williams and Glynn Carlock Jr.
“I’ve been around a lot of good basketball minds. From Aaron to Robin to Glynn, whose had some success at Graham lately, if you look,” Coffey said. “I’ve been around some good ones.”
The four years he spent at J.J. Kelly/Wise Central under Dotson — who led the Lady Warriors to the Group A, Division 2 Final Four last season — is an obvious template that can’t help but influence the directions Coffey takes at Norton.
Coffey’s year spent as boys varsity head coach at Patrick Henry-Glade Spring brought him up to speed on the more tedious administrative aspects of being a head coach. But as for the rest of it, Dotson gave Coffey a great deal of hands-on experience at Wise.
“It’s like (Dotson) gave me the keys to the car from June through November. In November, he took the car keys back,” said Coffey, who was girls head track coach at Central in the spring of 2012.
He got to know J.I. Burton principal and boys varsity basketball coach Williams when Coffey was still in college, serving as a special education aide at Castlewood High School.
“I once told somebody that the most basketball I ever learned was during lunch when (Williams) and Modi Hayes shot ideas off each other,” said Coffey, whose wedding ended up being officiated by Williams, his eventual boss.
The new coach's arrival at Burton coincides with an entirely new era of basketball: a new league and an entirely new postseason structure. The timing is pretty good.
This year, J.I. Burton joins the Cumberland District, which includes two teams — Castlewood and Clintwood — that made appearances in last year’s Division 1 Final Four in Richmond.
Even though Division 1 was the state's smallest division, both Southwest Virginia teams were ultimately bumped off in the semifinals by significantly larger schools: Altavista beat Clintwood and East Rockingham overran Castlewood.
That sort of scenario probably won’t be repeated under the new 6-A classification system that will govern VHSL postseason play.
“I think the new classification system makes the scales a lot more balanced,” Coffey said.
“This has the potential to be a great job because you’re Single A and competing against your size, for once. There isn’t a 625 school playing Division 1 anymore. And that’s fair.”