Scott James loves his hometown of St. Albans. He was born there, raised there. He wants to help shine a positive light there any time he can. It’s why he took the St. Albans girls basketball head coaching job 14 years ago, to help the program rebound. It’s why he ran for mayor of the city — and will start that job on July 1.
Can he do both? Can he lead a girls basketball team coming off a state tournament appearance and oversee the city at the same time?
He wants to.
“My goal is to do both,” he said.
Whether he will comes down to two questions: Is he allowed? Is there enough time in the day to juggle both?
The answer to the first question should come quickly. He’ll soon look into whether city code will allow him to assume both positions at once. James said he has talked to a couple of the city council members, who said they didn’t have a problem with it.
Conflicts can be worked around. The council meets on Mondays and James isn’t a fan of scheduling Monday games, so the two shouldn’t clash much. If he’s pulled away on city business, he has full confidence that his staff — most of whom grew up in or played for St. Albans — could handle practices from time to time.
He already had a taste of trying to balance the two during his mayoral campaign. During the basketball season, the team was his top priority, but completely ignoring the campaign would have ended his hopes pretty quickly. James can’t say enough about the support he received from both his coaching staff and his campaign team.
“It’s all about team,” James said. “If you have a good team and support system, it allows you to be able to do both things at the same time. Without that, it never would have happened.”
James isn’t the only person trying to balance coaching life and political life. Heck, he’s not the only guy in Kanawha County trying to do that. One need only look to the governor’s mansion, where Gov. Jim Justice had juggled his gubernatorial and coaching duties with Greenbrier East’s boys and girls basketball teams since his January inauguration.
James hasn’t reached out to Justice just yet, but he aims to.
“He’s busy with his session, but I do have him on speed dial,” James said. “I might give him a call when he gets a little bit of a break.”
He’ll probably hear that breaks don’t come too often when the buck stops with you, whether running a nation, state or city. James, though, won’t be shy about rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. He remembers the St. Albans in which he grew up and wants to see that again.
“I watch movies like ‘The Sandlot’ and ‘Stand by Me’ and I think, this is our community,” James said. “There’s a lot to build on in St. Albans, but we want this to be a destination community again. We want St. Albans to be a shining light again.”
There’s a chance that the city will be willing to give James the best of both worlds — the mayor’s office and the head coach’s seat — but the calendar won’t be as forgiving. If that’s the case, he’ll have to say goodbye to the coaching job he has held and loved for more than a decade.
It won’t be some last-minute decision dropped on the eve of the season. James expects to know whether he’ll be able to balance both by early in the school year. That way, St. Albans will have plenty of time to find a successor. James would like it to be his assistant, Scott Tweedy, if it comes to that. He hopes it doesn’t have to.
In the end, James just wants what is best for everyone, even if it means bidding adieu to the clipboard and whistle.
“I love coaching the girls basketball team at St. Albans,” James said, “but I love the city of St. Albans just as much. It’s not about me. It’s about the program and about the city.”