Sanford Silver never had the chance to coach the James Wood girls’ JV basketball team in a game, but he received quite the promotion on Tuesday.
James Wood announced it had hired the 51-year-old Silver to succeed Krista Crites as its varsity head coach on Tuesday, two months after the longtime AAU coach was hired to direct the JV team. Crites announced on Sept. 29 she was resigning after seven seasons so she could take a teaching job in Moorefield, W.Va., which is near where she grew up.
Silver — who grew up in North Carolina — established the NHB (New Hope Baptist Church) Ballers of Stephens City 25 years ago. His boys’ and girls’ programs have combined to win six state titles and have two AAU Division 2 national runner-up tournament finishes while competing in Atlanta.
James Wood’s girls’ varsity team is coming off a 2019-20 season in which it went 22-5 (a school record for wins) and tied for the Class 4 Northwestern District regular-season title with a 13-1 record.
Silver said he’s coached several of James Wood’s players at the AAU level.
“Once the [varsity job] became available, I was highly interested,” said Silver in a phone interview. “I know what I can bring to the table, and I’m ready for the challenge.”
Silver spent the previous three winters coaching the Shenandoah Valley Christian Athletics girls’ travel team.
After Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy closed down in 2017, Silver took on an athletic director role and formed boys’ and girls’ basketball teams made up of local home-school athletes and athletes from local schools who were not playing for the high school they attended. The SVCA schedules were made up entirely of high school teams and home school teams.
Silver — who also served as the bus driver for the teams — said running the SVCA program was proving to be too much work, though, so he decided to return to coaching a school team during the winter season. (Silver coached the Wildwood Middle School girls’ team in Shenandoah Junction, W.Va.., in 2016-17.)
“I enjoyed what I was doing for the kids, because I think it was a great opportunity for them to show their talents and gifts,” Silver said. “But I had my hands in a lot of things, and I needed to make a change to get the work off of me.”
Silver said his first SVCA team won a National Association of Christian Athletics state title. That team posted a 16-4 record.
James Wood coordinator of student activities Craig Woshner said Silver’s familiarity with the players was a big plus, especially since Crites resigned a little more than three months before the start of the basketball season. The first official practice date is Dec. 7 and the Colonels open the season on Dec. 21 at Culpeper County.
“He works well with the girls, and I think the girls enjoy working with him,” Woshner said. “That’s ultimately what it came down to.
“With the timing of Coach Crites’ resignation and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding high school athletics due to the pandemic, we felt Coach Silver’s familiarity with many of our players and program would result in a smooth transition that we believe is most important in sustaining the success of our girls’ basketball program.”
Silver said he wants James Wood to have an aggressive mindset.
“We plan on putting pressure on guards,” Silver said. “I still work with post players, so you’ll see a little bit of that.”
James Wood lost four seniors who contributed significantly to the Colonels’ success last year, including three who earned all-district honors. One of them was two-time Winchester Star Player of the Year Makayla Firebaugh, who is now at NCAA Division I Rider University.
The Colonels do bring back several key contributors though, including Second Team All-District guard Brynna Nesselrodt. The sophomore — who averaged 9.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game and led the area in free-throw shooting (.841, 69 of 82) — is someone who Silver began working with on the NHB Ballers this year.
“She’s definitely an outstanding, upcoming athlete,” Silver said. “She’s a kid who is willing to learn from a lot of different coaches, and I think she’s picking up with me very well. We’re trying to make her a little bit faster, a quicker shooter, all those kinds of things. She’s doing very well.
“I think we’re going to have a lot of great success as a team. As long as get to have a season, I think you’ll see a real good team that we’ll put forth, and will be exciting to come watch.”