Justin Kuralt knows basketball.
For more than two decades he has watched and trained under some of the best coaches in the country, from Roy Williams and Dean Smith at North Carolina to Bob McKillop at Davidson to Scott Brewer at Concord High.
Now, Kuralt, 42, is moving into his second year as head coach at Covenant Classical School.
"I always have high expectations of myself and my team, no matter where I am coaching," said Kuralt. "Right now, I'm trying to build this program and go in the right direction. So, I have to reign myself in a little bit."
Kuralt, nephew of the late CBS journalist and UNC graduate Charles Kuralt, has lived basketball.
After growing up in Chapel Hill and playing basketball at Chapel Hill High, Kuralt wanted to keep basketball in his life. He became a team manager for the Tar Heels, first under JV Coach and varsity assistant Roy Williams, and then under legendary coach Dean Smith on the varsity squad.
After graduating from UNC, Kuralt moved on as college assistant at Davidson College, Hutchison Junior College and UNC Asheville from 1991 to 1997.
"I learned a lot about coaching from some of best coaches in the country," said Kuralt. "I've seen programs when they were at their peak and when they were just beginning. I've been able to apply a lot of what I learned into my style and my own team's philosophies."
After his last college coaching stint at UNC Asheville, Kuralt made the difficult decision to get out of coaching to work in healthcare and raise a family. For nearly a decade, he stepped away from basketball.
But all of that changed when the right opportunity came into his life. A.L. Brown athletic director Ron Massey and basketball coach Shelwyn Klutz hired him to coach the Wonders' JV program and be a varsity assistant in 2006. Then, Kuralt took the same job under Brewer at Concord from 2008 until last year when the Covenant Classical job came calling.
"I was actually already committed to Coach Brewer and the Concord program when the Covenant Classical job came open," said Kuralt. "Really, I think I was just at the right place at the right time."
Last season, Kuralt took on both jobs as the head coach of the Concord JV team and the varsity coach at Covenant Classical. Like he has in the past, Kuralt overachieved leading the Warriors to 14-14 in his first season, including a second place conference finish after a trip to the Piedmont Athletic Conference (PAC 6) tournament championship, where they fell to Queens Grant.
"I was just trying to get used to everything, and they were getting used to me," said Kuralt of last year. "Now, I feel like I can really put my stamp on this program."
The Warriors will look to push the ball, as they feature a smaller lineup led by senior forward Jonathan George, who averaged 13 points and eight rebounds last year. Point guard Tim Coleman will also be key in getting out on the break, as well as freshman Tim Walker.
Covenant Classical (3-2) has already shown signs of improvement, as they nearly beat Cannon in their season opener, losing 34-33, and have early wins over Gaston Day and Lincoln Charter.
"We are still a work in progress, but I am excited about this team and this program," said Kuralt. "We are trying to build things one step at a time. Hopefully, our best days are not too far ahead of us."
After making the PAC 6 tournament final last season, the next step is challenging Lake Norman Charter and Queens Grant for both the regular season and tournament titles and becoming a factor in the postseason.
But while the ultimate goal at any coaching job is to win, Kuralt says he has learned winning isn't everyting.
"I want to win, every coach wants to win," he said. "But I think I've learned the most important thing about coaching is to realize you are impacting young people's live. In the end, the best reward to coaching is seeing kids come back five years from now, knowing that you may have played a small part in making them a better person."