Davidson Day hires Justus for vital dual-role
by Staff Writer
DAVIDSON – Joel Justus will influence students on and off the basketball court.
Justus, 30, was introduced as Davidson Day’s boys basketball coach and dean of student life on May 4.
“This is an extremely important position,” said Bonnie Cotter, Davidson Day’s head of school. “He is responsible for developing and mentoring boys and girls of all ages going forward, and helping us do that in a successful way.”
Justus spent the past four years as head coach and admissions director at Woodberry Forest, a prestigious boarding school in Virginia. Prior to that, he was an assistant at Elon University for four years.
The position attracted more than 115 applicants, Cotter said.
Justus’s roots are deep in North Carolina and in basketball. He grew up in Winston-Salem, was a star player at Mount Tabor High, and a player captain at UNC Wilmington. His father was sports information director at Wake Forest for 15 years. His grandfather had more than 500 victories as a high school coach.
“This has always been a job that I’ve had my eye on, to come into a school where you can have an impact daily,” Justus said. “That’s what stuck out to me, the opportunity presented here as dean of student life as well as coaching. Very rarely in the independent school world do you get to upgrade in both of your interests.”
Justus replaced Ron Johnson, who resigned last month to become an assistant basketball coach at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Johnson’s teams were 75-21 in his three seasons at Davidson Day, and all three teams reached the state playoffs. His most recent team won a conference championship and advanced to the state championship game. Davidson Day (31-4) set a school record for victories last season.
Cotter, Mike Smith (head of upper school) and Matt Neville (athletics director) introduced Justus at the press conference.
“Anytime you make a change, you do it for the people,” Justus said. “These three, they’re the reason. The energy they have is contagious. Those are the people I want to go to work with every day.”
Justus isn’t scheduled to officially begin until July 1, but he’ll meet with players, students and school officials this week to form summer basketball plans, and get a head start on next school year.
“Joel Justus is a passionate leader who knows how to win,” Neville said. “Davidson Day hired a coach with integrity, humor and superb work ethic. Joel will unify our boys programs from top to bottom. He is a strong-willed, disciplined coach who gets the most out of his players. Joel was up against a lot of different factors at a boarding school, but he still found a way to get it done, and get it done at a high level.”
Justus led Woodberry Forest to a Virginia Prep League regular-season title in 2010 and two appearances in the conference championship game. The Tigers hadn’t played in a VPL title game since 1994.