Anthony Church

Anthony Church, a 2009 West Wilkes graduate, instructs his team during a timeout last year versus West Iredell.

Anthony Church has always had a desire to be a high school head coach.

And now the 2009 West Wilkes graduate will have the opportunity as he was approved on Aug. 24, by the Catawba County School Board of Education, to be the new varsity boys basketball head coach at Bunker Hill High School.

“I am truly blessed and honored to have this opportunity to become the head boy’s basketball coach at Bunker Hill High School,” said Church. “I intend to develop a basketball program that our players, staff, alumni and community will be proud of.”

Church, 29, replaces another former Wilkes County basketball player in 2009 North Wilkes graduate Dylan Johnson.

Johnson, who coached the Bears last winter, stepped down in late June to become an assistant principal at North Buncombe High School in Buncombe County. Church was an assistant coach on Johnson’s staff last winter.

“When we hired Coach Johnson, we knew about his desire to become an administrator, and we supported him in making that move,” said Bunker Hill Athletic Director James Byrd. “We are very fortunate that Coach Church came on board as Johnson’s assistant because Coach Church managed all of the summer workouts for the team. He’s definitely not afraid to put in the work.”

In addition to coaching basketball, Church will be teaching physical education — a position he previously held at West Wilkes Middle School.

But Church has ties to Catawba County that he acquired while he was an undergraduate student at Lenoir-Rhyne University, earning his degree in Health and Physical Education.

Church began his coaching career while at L-R by assisting with the Hickory Elite, now the Hickory Hoyas.

Since then, he has taught and coached basketball, and a variety of sports, with the Knights before moving into coaching high school last season at Bunker Hill.

Church also helped out with the East Wilkes football program in 2016 under J.K. Adkins, who coached the Cardinals from 2012-18 before leaving to become the head football coach at Mount Airy.

“We are glad to have him. He’s a good fit for the Bunker Hill athletics program,” said Dr. Lee Miller, principal at Bunker Hill. “He knows the players and the staff and he’s worked to establish those relationships. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can build.”

Church becomes the Bears seventh varsity boys’ basketball head coach since 1980. In addition to Johnson, the late Mark Carter, former UNC-Charlotte head coach and current University of Nebraska assistant coach Bobby Lutz and Jim Woodruff had also held the position.

The two head coaches prior to Johnson taking over — Matt Wilkinson and Lee Swanson — are currently head coaches at basketball programs in Catawba County.

Wilkinson is the head boys basketball coach at Newton-Conover and Swanson is in his second season as Bunker Hill’s head girls basketball coach.

In recent years, the Bears basketball program has had a couple of ties to the Blackhawks.

Swanson took over for Randy Joines, who like Church, also graduated from West Wilkes. Church also played for Larry Siers when Siers was the head boys basketball coach at West Wilkes. Siers is currently Bunker Hill’s JV Boys Head Coach.

“We have a great group of young men at Bunker Hill and I am extremely excited to get to work towards success not only on the court, but also off the court,” said Church.

The Bears struggled in Johnson’s lone season at the helm, going 3-22 and 1-13 in the Northwestern Foothills 2A Conference where it finished last in the eight-team league.

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