The Georgia Southern athletic department acted quickly in naming University of Alabama assistant coach Charlie Henry as their new head men’s basketball coach. Wednesday afternoon Henry and his family were welcomed to Georgia Southern as fans, faculty, coaches and players met him at Hanner Fieldhouse where an introductory press conference took place.
“In the past few days, I have felt so much love and support from Eagle Nation,” Henry said. “I want to personally thank everyone who called and sent texts and made me and my family feel so welcome and a part of this team. I am so proud to be here today as your men’s basketball head coach. It’s really a dream come true for me.”
Henry has been the defensive mind behind the Crimson Tide’s success recently. Alabama ended the regular season as the No. 1 ranked team in the country. Henry began his coaching career with Nate Oats as an assistant at Romulus High School in Michigan. The two would reunite at Alabama in 2019 as Henry joined Oats’ staff.
“Who would have thought when we were at Romulus High School together that coach Oats would be the head coach at Alabama and I would be the head coach at Georgia Southern,” Henry said. “We have come a long way and I couldn’t have asked for a better friend every step along the journey. His relentless competitiveness helped make me a better coach.”
Henry also worked as a head coach in the NBA’s G-League with the Windy City Bulls and served as an assistant coach under Fred Hoiberg at both Iowa State and with the Chicago Bulls.
At Alabama Henry headed up the Crimson Tide's defense, which ranked No. 1 nationally in effective field goal percentage. He was also quick to point out Wednesday that Alabama was ranked among the top 20 schools in the country in offensive efficiency.
One of the biggest weaknesses of the past couple Georgia Southern basketball teams has come on the offensive side of the court. Defensively the Eagles ranked among the top 100 teams in field goal percentage and scoring defense. On offense the Eagles ranked a lot closer to 300. Georgia Southern ranked 310 in three-point field goal percentage, 337 in assists per game, 285 in free throw shooting and 259 in scoring offense.
Eagle athletics director Jared Benko said among the many things that sold him on hiring Henry was the style of play he brings with him to Georgia Southern.
“You look at his experience with not only coaching on the highest level in college, but also having coached in the NBA,” said Benko. “The style of play he brings was also very important. We have been very focused on defense here the past couple of years and being aggressive on offense. Now we are going to try and shoot the ball earlier before the defense can get set. You are going to see a pick at the top of the key within the first six seconds. He was the last person we went out to interview and I feel like 30 minutes in we knew we had our guy.”
This past season Henry helped Alabama to their first SEC Championship since 1991. Henry takes over a Georgia Southern program who has not won a conference tournament since 1992, which is also the last time they went to the NCAA Tournament.
“Obviously we are trying to get back to where the program was in 1992,” Henry said. “You are evaluated on making it to the NCAA tournament. I am trying to sell the incredible infrastructure we have here at Georgia Southern to recruits. I am also selling our style. When you build your roster, I don’t think you can be strong in just one area, you have to be strong in every area. We are going to build a great staff and work really hard and hold our players to a high standard.”
Henry is keeping at least one member of former coach Brian Burg’s staff as he announced at the press conference that he is retaining assistant coach Chris Shumate.
“I really want to thank coach Shumate for helping to make this transition so smooth,” said Henry. “Some of my mentors and closest friends in this game went out of their way to sing the praises of coach Shumate. He is a veteran of college basketball and players and other coaches respect him. It was an easy decision to keep him on staff.”
Keeping Shumate could also help the Eagles keep some of their current signees. The Eagles currently have four signees to go along with four returning scholarship players from last season’s squad leaving the Eagles with five spots still available. Tai Strickland, Carlos Curry and Andrei Savrasov have all entered the transfer portal with one year remaining. Amar Augillard and Cam Bryant have also entered the transfer portal.
“We are currently trying to meet with our current guys and signees,” Henry said. “Next week we will have a good handle on what we have and what we need. Then we will get out and start bringing guys to campus that we hope will join the fold. We plan on going into the transfer portal for a piece or two and I also wouldn’t rule out high school guys who are available late and junior college prospects.”