Tony Walters has been a head coach for eight years, the second-longest of any girls' varsity basketball coaching Cabarrus County.
But he still never knows whether he'll have a job from year to year.
Walters - who is not on the school's faculty - and the school administrators he has served know his employment is always tenuous. Still, he has impressed them enough that he always seems to find a program in need.
After five years at Mount Pleasant and two at Hickory Ridge, Walters now coaches at first-year Cox Mill High. He plans on being there a long time, and Cox Mill athletic director Tim Neidermeyer would like it that way.
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But the only thing that keeps Walters' coaching job safe is the lack of a Cox Mill faculty member who is interested and qualified to be the girls' head basketball coach.
In his native Mecklenburg County, being a nonfaculty head coach is not an option. Walters knew that to lead a program, he would have to go to one of Charlotte's surrounding counties.
Before Walters became coach at Mount Pleasant in 2002, he spent six years at Charlotte Catholic as an assistant to his wife, Amy. When Mount Pleasant hired him, he became its fourth head coach in four years.
If Walters brought anything to Mount Pleasant, it was stability. The Tigers struggled for wins in the Rocky River 2A Conference, but their overall mark of 10-13 in Walters' second season was their best winning percentage in five seasons.
"After five years at Mount Pleasant, you have to ask, 'Have I done all I can do?'" Walters said. He believed he had.
Hickory Ridge High was set to open in fall 2007, and Walters was looking for a new challenge. Hickory Ridge's administration told him the same thing he had heard five years earlier at Mount Pleasant, he said: If a faculty member was qualified to be head coach, that person would be given the opportunity.
Starting with their first season, Jessica Smith was the Ragin' Bulls' junior varsity coach. Walters said the administration told him Smith would likely be given the opportunity to take the head coaching job after she had gotten a few years of JV experience.
Walters' Hickory Ridge varsity, meanwhile, finished a surprising 14-13 in its first season and 16-7 in its second.
After the season, he said, he was surprised administrators told him that "we aren't going to need your services anymore" and that Smith (who is now Jessica Kulp) would be the varsity head coach.
Walters said he understood what he was getting into when he was hired at Hickory Ridge, and there was no reason for any ill feelings. His ouster just came a year sooner than had expected, he said.
Neidermeyer, who had all 29 varsity and junior varsity positions to fill before Cox Mill High opened, eventually contacted Walters about the head coaching job there.
Thirteen of Cox Mill High's 29 head coaches are faculty members there.
"We were fortunate to find some good nonfaculty people to come in," said Neidermeyer. "Tony came very highly recommended. It was the right place at the right time."
Developing the program at Cox Mill has been tougher than at Hickory Ridge. Players have been hard to come by: The varsity and junior varsity together have only 18 players. The two teams have one win between them.
By day, Walters works as a customer service and distribution manager in the dairy industry. As much as anybody, he knows the cream always rises to the top.