By Robert Wilson
Former longtime Mississippi College men’s basketball coach Mike Jones wasn’t surprised Josh Brooks was named the head men’s basketball at Belhaven this week.
“When Josh played for me, he was an extremely hard worker,” said Jones, who coached Brooks from 1995-99 and retired in 2021 after a 33-year career at MC as coach and athletic director. “He practiced hard and worked hard to be the best he could be. Josh has done the same thing as a coach. He has been successful wherever he has been, and Belhaven saw that and that’s why he’s the new head coach. No one is going to outwork him. His players also work hard, too. Josh loves and cares for his players. He is an incredible influence on them and a wonderful spiritual mentor for them.”
Brooks, 45, will be a college head coach for the first time. He replaces Jonathan Vines, who took a position at Bayside Academy in Daphne, Ala.
Belhaven will begin its eighth season playing in NCAA Division III after being an NAIA school for decades.
“Mike taught me so much about coaching in general while I played for him,” Brooks said. “He taught me the importance of discipline and preparation. Mike knew when to control the game from the sidelines and when to let his players make plays. He was also a great example of being willing to share about his faith with his players.”
Brooks was an assistant coach at MC under Don Lofton from 2008-2018 and at Belhaven under Dale Hatcher from 2002-2004. In his first season as an assistant at MC, he helped guide the Choctaw to a 20-win season and the conference tournament championship game. At Belhaven, Brooks was also the recruiting coordinator.
“I learned a lot about recruiting from Don Lofton,” Brooks said. “He is an excellent evaluator of talent and great at making use of his contacts to find players. Dale Hatcher gave me my first opportunity to coach on the college level. He trusted me with a lot of responsibility.”
“Josh Brooks is the total package,” said Lofton, who was at MC for the past 40 seasons, as an assistant to Jones for 24 seasons and as head coach for 16 seasons. “He gained valuable college experience coaching and recruiting student athletes while developing a solid understanding of the game. Josh is a smart, strong Christian man who loves God and his family. He has been successful at every stop during his career.”
“It is great to have Josh back at Belhaven, and now as head coach to lead the young men in our program,” Belhaven athletic director Scott Little said. “Knowing Josh for years, I have seen firsthand his love for Christ, his commitment to his family and his heart to lead young men both competitively and spiritually.”
Brooks comes to Belhaven from Jackson Academy where he had an 91-48 record in four seasons. He led the Raiders to MAIS three tournament appearances, one Overall Tournament runner-up finish, one Overall semifinal finish and one Overall quarterfinal finish. Brooks led JA to 27 victories and an upset win over defending Overall champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy in the Overall semifinals this past season.
Brooks was also a head coach at Hernando High for four seasons (2004-2008). He had a 75-41 record and won the Class 4A, Region 2 championship, upsetting then No. 1 Oxford, in the 2007-2008 season.
Brooks was an assistant coach at Hillcrest Christian from 2000-2002 and he helped the Cougars to the Overall championship in 2001.
“I am really happy for Josh on becoming the next men’s basketball coach at Belhaven University,” said Kenny Bizot, who was the head coach when Brooks was an assistant at Hillcrest and is now the athletic director at MC. “Josh is an exceptional coach with high character and integrity. He will provide great leadership and mentorship for his student-athletes. Josh will do an incredible job at Belhaven.”
“Bizot really taught me about having a refuse to lose mentality,” Brooks said. “We’ve had a great friendship ever since.”
Brooks is ready to get to work at his new position.
“I’m beyond excited about rejoining the Belhaven community,” Brooks said. “The opportunity to work at an institution that is committed to their Christian mission and to excelling in academics and athletics and shares my values and priorities. It is a dream job for me.”
Belhaven will be competing in the new Collegiate Conference of the South. The other eight schools in the conference are like Belhaven, Division III private schools from Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Belhaven is the only school in Mississippi in the conference.
“The new conference is an awesome opportunity for Belhaven,” Brooks said. “The competition footprint will match our primary recruiting area and provide for some great rivalries.”
John Works will return as Brooks’ assistant coach.
“John is an outstanding recruiter and has helped to bring in what is shaping up to be an outstanding recruiting class,” Brooks said. “We return two starters (rising junior guard and last year’s leading scorer Luke Couch from Birmingham and rising junior guard and third leading scorer Matthew McMillan from Martin, Tenn.) from last year’s team (which finished 8-12). I’m looking forward to getting back on the college level. I love the deeper relationships that develop in college teams when players are away from home and living and eating together on a daily basis.”