HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS BASKETBALL: Hickory confirms Helms has retired

Published Wednesday, May 4th, 2022

Varsity basketball coaching position now listed as open

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HICKORY –The Hickory Public Schools (HPS) confirmed on Wednesday the varsity girls’ basketball head-coaching  job at Hickory High is now open and applications are being accepted for the job.

Responding to an e-mail inquiry from HobbsDailyReport.com, Beverly Snowden said:  “I can confirm with you that Barbara Helms retired from her position at Hickory High, effective April 1st, 2022. That’s all I have for you at this time, per your inquiry.”

Snowden is director of communications for HPS.


HobbsDailyReport.com first reported the HHS job as open on Monday, noting it was listed on the HPS website and on MaxPreps.com with HHS Principal Rebecca Tuttle listed as the contact on both posts.

HobbsDailyReport.com left a voice mail message for Helms on Sunday but has not heard back from her as of Wednesday night.

Without specific information from the school system or Helms, it is unclear — at least at this point — if she has completed her coaching career.

One option available to coaches who step away from teaching but would like to continue as a n0n-faculty head coach is to leave public education for six months and then re-apply for a job (including the one they previously had).

Newton-Conover’s varsity girls’ head basketball coach, Sylvia White, retired from a central office position and was away from the school system for state-required six months (much of the paperwork has to do with retirement funding and laws that govern that) and then re-hired to guide the Red Devils last season.

Anyone who retired April 1 and wanted to entertain returning as a non-faculty — with school board approval — could not be considered until the job was posted as open and they were away until at least Nov. 1.

The first basketball games played last season by HHS were scheduled Nov. 23.

Helms’ coaching career includes six years as head coach at Lenoir-Rhyne University (1985-86 through 1990-91, 69-84 record), three seasons as head coach at East Burke High (1996-97 through 1998-99, 38-37 record) and 19 years at Hickory High (2003-2004 through last season, unofficial record of 442-82).

Her unofficial prep coaching record is 480-119.

Helms replaced Gale Kerbaugh as head coach at LRU, and Judy Keever as head coach of the East Burke girls when Keever retired after the 1995-96 season.

The Red Tornadoes were 17-9 overall last season, including 11-3 and a second-place finish behind East Lincoln in the Western Foothills 3A. The mark also includes an after-the-fact forfeit win over Ashbrook (ineligible player) and Enka eliminated Hickory 63-57 in overtime in the first round of the state 3A playoffs.

All 19 of Helms’ teams at HHS had a winning record, and her East Burke teams posted one winning record, one .500 record and one losing record.

Hickory won eight outright conference titles under Helms and shared while all 19 of her Red Tornadoes teams reached the state playoffs and two from East Burke also did.

She had 16 teams at Hickory reach at least 20 wins and her 2014-2015 teams won a state 3A title and her 2010-2011 and 2013-2014 teams were state 3A runners-up.

Helms guided seven HHS teams to the West Regionals – the school has 18 girls’ appearances — and the Red Tornadoes have earned 43 state tournament bids since 1978 and won five state titles.

Known best for her coaching intensity and her never-wavering philosophy that her job was to coach her players to be prepared to handle college basketball should they get that opportunity, Helms did not miss a step with the Red Tornadoes program once Elder retired.

Elder left after the 2002-2003 season with a West 3A Regional bid (26-2 record), and Asheville denied HHS another shot at a state title with a 54-53 win in the West 3A title game.

Helms’ first team in 2003-2004 went 23-7 and finished third in the Southwestern Foothills 3A, then shared a league title, won four straight, finished second and won four outright and shared one over the next five seasons (two shares, eight titles, one second in 11-year run).

Hickory won a state 3A title in 2014-2015, going 27-0 and knocking off Chapel Hill for a 3A title after Chapel Hill had beaten a 29-0 HHS team in the final a year before that.

Helms — whose maiden name was Buchanan — was also a significant women’s college basketball player in her own playing days. She was named to the 12th annual ACC Women’s Basketball Legends team after starring at Wake Forest.

Earning four letters from 1980-1984, Helms was the first women’s baskeball player signed by Wake Forest and she was team MVP as a freshman (11.4 points, 7.9 rebounds). She finished with 1,023 career points and 619 career rebounds.

She remains the fourth winningest women’s basketball coach at LRU behind Todd Starkey, Pat Smith and Karen Barefoot, and only Starkey (260) has coached more Bears women’s basketball games than Helms’ 150.

Helms is married to Michael Helms, a successful prep football coach who was last head coach at Hickory and her son, Brandon, has one season in as boys’ varsity head basketball coach at Bandys.

Girls’ varsity basketball positions now open since last season include Bunker Hill, where Lee Swanson has resigned, and Bandys, where Nikki Brittain has resigned.

With Helms out of the mix, the most wins by current girls’ head varsity basketball coaches in the Greater Hickory area are Jeff Parham at South Caldwell (397) and Amber Reddick of Freedom (393).

The most wins among boys’ varsity head coaches in the area – active and retired – is Danny Anderson of South Caldwell (734-275), and he will be inducted into the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) Hall of Fame in August.


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