Myrtle Beach didn’t go far to find its next girls basketball coach.
The school has hired Jennifer Dennison, who sat second chair to Brian Kiper the last four years. Dennison, also a Seahawk graduate and former player, will take over a team that loses one of the best players in the state but that also returns some decent talent and is a perennial region contender.
“It means a lot to me. I’ve been working with the program for about 12 years,” Dennison said Tuesday. “I was the behind-the-scenes person, building AAU programs. … I’m a die-hard fan, and I bleed green and gold.
“I thought about it, but I never thought this day would come.”
Dennison was an assistant coach during Myrtle Beach’s back-to-back state title teams in 2010 and 2011. However, the biggest piece of the last six years is now gone. Star guard Khadijah Sessions graduated in May after scoring 3,020 career points – fifth in state history – and earning several player of the year honors and a scholarship to the University of South Carolina.
For that reason alone, Dennison said the program has to start from scratch.
“Right now, the next two years I’m going to go back to the basics of basketball. When we lost Khadijah, we lost a lot,” Dennison said. “I know we’re not going to have a great season like we’ve had, but if we play basic basketball, we’re not going to be bad. I believe in you have to crawl before you run. We’re going to do a lot of crawling to begin with.”
Dennison will have one top-tier talent at her disposal. Returning forward Tanisha Brown is expected back in uniform after missing a big chunk of last season with a knee injury. Brown, who originally committed to North Carolina as a freshman, re-opened her recruitment after she was told playing time might be hard to come by at UNC.
She’s now also considering Florida, Florida State, East Carolina and Coastal Carolina, among others, according to Dennison.
However, that next move will come after one more season at Myrtle Beach. There, she and the rest of the returning players will help usher in the post-Sessions era with a new coach.
Kiper was 99-15 overall and 38-2 in region play in four years. He resigned last month after accepting a coaching position at Triway High School in Wooster, Ohio. He graduated from that school in 1991.
Similarly, Dennison is more than happy to be taking the reins at her alma mater. She graduated from Myrtle Beach in 1993 after playing four years on the varsity squad, where she helped the Seahawks to the 1991-1992 Class AAA state title game.
She’s currently employed as the youth program director at the Canal Street Recreation Center.
“Jennifer will serve the kids’ best interest,” Myrtle Beach Athletics Director John Cahill said Tuesday. “She’s been in the program. She’s a product of the program. … She’s a pillar in the community.”
Dennison is one of a handful of new coaches who will take over at Myrtle Beach this year. Since the end of the 2011-2012 school year, Cahill has also hired Karen Nicoletti (girls golf), Lonnie Kaye (boys cross country), Antonio Sullivan (girls track) and Dave McCarty (boys swimming).
Nicoletti, who has been a golf instructor for the last 40 years, recently served stint at Grande Dunes. Kaye was already at Myrtle Beach, where he has served as the junior varsity boys soccer coach. Sullivan, like Dennison, is an employee of the city recreation department and previously coached at Carolina Forest. McCarty has a long history in the pool, including time with the U.S. Masters Swimming organization.
“It’s been a busy last few weeks,” Cahill said.
The athletics director is still in the process of finding a new boys tennis coach to replace Steve Walsh, who retired at the end of the year, and a boys track coach.