After seven years as the head basketball coach of the boys’ team at Aiken High School, Tony Harrell will leave the Hornets. He has accepted the same position with fellow Aiken County school North Augusta High School.
“I accepted the position this afternoon,” Harrell said Thursday evening, adding that he expects to be officially named head coach the next time the school board meets. “It was a tough decision and a hard decision. I have a lot of good memories at Aiken High School, it’s hard to leave.”
Harrell said he was grateful for the opportunity to coach so many young men at Aiken High. He praised athletic director Carey Johnson and the school’s administration, and spoke fondly of the relationships he was able to build with students and staff alike.
At North Augusta, Harrell will replace longtime head coach Al Young who recently retired. When Young stepped away, he was proud of the state of the Yellow Jacket program. He acknowledged that whoever followed him would have a solid core to build around, not needing to start from scratch.
“The good thing is we’re leaving behind some really good players and a good team,” Young said. “I think that gives the person coming in an opportunity to be successful. That’s what I always hoped, to leave behind something that can be successful and that can be built on. I feel good about that.”
Harrell said he’s looking forward to meeting the players returning from last season’s region championship squad, including All-State and All-Aiken Standard selection Chandler Harrison. He said he’s also hopeful that his arrival will encourage even more students to come out for the team.
“It’s a new opportunity for everybody at school,” said Harrell, who’s a North Augusta product. He played for the Yellow Jackets and started his coaching career with them during the 1999-2000 season as an assistant.
Aiken and North Augusta have been Region 5-AAAA rivals for several years. They’ve been postseason regulars the past four seasons, often competing for the region title. With realignment shifting Aiken to Class AAA, they won’t be in the same region for at least the next two years.
Even though the teams might not meet as frequently, with Harrell switching from the Hornets to the Yellow Jackets it adds another element to the rivalry.
Noah Feit is the sports editor for the Aiken Standard. North Augusta Star staff writer T.J. Lundeen contributed to this report.