Hicks retiring after 18 years as Northern athletic director

Sep. 21, 2013 @ 10:25 PM

The thought of retiring never really entered his mind.

Northern Vance’s longtime athletic director David Hicks had always suspected he would just fall over on the field one day at practice or during a game. And that would be it.

But after 18 years as Northern’s athletic director, Hicks’ time at Northern is coming to a close on his own accord. His retirement is effective Monday, Sept. 30.

“It’s really strange, but you just sort of know when it’s time to make a change,” said Hicks, who coached Northern’s boys and girls soccer teams from 1995-2011.

Hicks hasn’t slowed down much. He’s still driving team buses, working the ticket table at volleyball matches and serving as the public address announcer at soccer games — to name a few duties.

His booming public address voice has also been a staple at Northern basketball games.

Wilton Baskett has coached the Vikings’ boys basketball team since 1994 in addition to serving as the track and field head coach. He credits Hicks with allowing coaches to only have to worry about coaching when gametime rolls around.

Those behind-the-scenes efforts, the meticulous preparation, make Hicks stand out to Jeff Tate, who coached Northern’s baseball team from 1993-2003 and currently serves as the athletic director at Kerr-Vance.

Tate and Baskett each noted Hicks’ decisiveness.

“We didn’t always agree on everything,” Tate said of coaches’ relationships with Hicks, “but you always knew where David stood. He he was honest and he would tell you exactly where he stood. I always respected that about him.”

“Direct and to the point,” added Baskett, “No nonsense. And his leadership as athletic director has been that. Direct and to the point and no nonsense.”

Ed Wilson worked as Northern’s athletic trainer prior to becoming Southern Vance’s athletic director, just after Hicks took over at Northern in 1995.

“He was well-liked by everyone,” said Wilson, who retired last year. “He would bend over backwards to help you change games, change times, change everything. He was a facilitator. He did what he had to do to make things work.”

Tate recently asked his former boss for advice on banners, noting the blue-and-golden pennants in Northern’s gym didn’t hang themselves — although Hicks has had some help from his wife, Jane.

“She’s mended uniforms,” Hicks said of Jane. “She’s hung emblems on the banners in the gym when we won something. She’s washed uniforms and practice shirts. It obviously takes a pretty special person to be married to a coach. And particularly an AD too I guess.”

Jane has been a fixture in the ticket window at Northern soccer games. She’ll be retiring from that post soon too.

Following an 8-0 loss to Franklinton in 2010, Hicks said his wife should have made the girls team buy tickets to the match.

“The majority of the team was standing there watching,” said Hicks, always quick with a wisecrack.

Hicks got his start in Northern soccer as Tommy Farmer’s assistant coach and was also the school’s first swimming coach in addition to serving as an assistant basketball coach for a few years.

Hicks’ soccer teams weren’t always championship-caliber, but they routinely received national academic recognition. He preached to his student-athletes the importance of academics, being competitive and doing things the right way.

Hicks said he’ll miss being around the student-athletes, which he always thought was the greatest thing about coaching.

Hicks will remain on the board of directors for the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association, which inducted him into its Field of Honor this year and he’ll return to refereeing the game he loves for the N.C. High School Athletic Association. 

Hicks turned Northern’s boys and girls soccer programs over to Razvan Tegean in 2011.

Tegean is still trying to make himself believe Hicks is actually leaving.

“I feel like it’s going to be a big loss for athletics in Vance County,” said Tegean. “I think for some of us it’s going to be strange for him not to be around at soccer games or football games or just being around whenever we needed him.”

It should come as no surprise that Hicks hasn’t spent a lot of time thinking about what it’ll be like when his work at Northern is officially finished.

On his last day, he’ll drive the soccer team to Oxford for a match with rival J.F. Webb.

“I’m going to drive them to that,” said Hicks, “and come back here and hang up the keys. I guess it’ll hit me full force when I hang the keys up.”

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.