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Yerrick Stoneman begins new era for Oak Hill after legendary coach retires

By Daniel Curren

Following the retirement of legendary coach Steve Smith, new Oak Hill Academy (VA) head coach Yerrick Stoneman looks to continue his predecessor’s legacy.

Stoneman served as an assistant coach under Smith from 1996-2007. In 2016, Stoneman was hired to coach the boys basketball team at Ridge View High School (SC). He led the Blazers to three consecutive South Carolina 4A State Championships in 2018, 2019 and 2020, as well as another in 2022. Finally, Stoneman was hired by Oak Hill in 2022 following Smith’s retirement. 

A Virginia native, Stoneman had long dreamed of becoming the head coach at Oak Hill. He developed a close relationship with Smith during his tenure as assistant coach. 

“He wasn’t only a mentor, but he was a father figure to me,” Stoneman said. “Even my daughter sees him like a grandfather.”

Smith took over at Oak Hill in 1985 and is regarded as one of the greatest high school basketball coaches of all time. With a career record of 1,228-97, he ranks third on the all-time wins list and led Oak Hill to nine national championships. 

Smith’s Oak Hill teams were named “team of the decade” in the 1990s by MaxPreps, going 314-20 during that time span. Smith coached several future NBA draft picks, including Carmelo Anthony, Jerry Stackhouse and Rajon Rondo. 

Smith and Stoneman have remained close after the transition of power. This relationship has been key for Stoneman as he navigates the trials and tribulations of his first year on the job. 

“When you have one of the top high school coaches of all time in your back pocket, it’s special,” Stoneman said. “He’s always willing to give me advice, and most importantly I’m always willing to ask for help too.”

After Smith announced his retirement, he decided to forgo the process of looking outward for a new coach. He wanted one of his assistants to get the job. 

“If they opened it up, there would have been a lot of guys applying,” Smith said. “But the president knew Yerrick, too. He really liked Yerrick and thought he was the right guy I needed too. I’m happy for him.”

As a member of the Army reserve, Stoneman was on duty at Fort Knox in Kentucky last June when he got a call from coach Smith. Smith informed Stoneman that he would be retiring at the end of the year and that he wanted Stoneman to take over. Stoneman was excited to have been Smith’s choice, and he was also excited for what this meant for his family. 

“It was a lifelong dream of mine, but also I was able to bring my wife back near her mother,” Stoneman said. “My daughters also teach elementary school, so they were able to come back and find a job in the area. More of it was a family decision to bring my family back together.”

Stoneman pushed his own coaching philosophy immediately after taking over. His first order of business was to hold an open forum for the players on Oak Hill’s White and Red teams to ask questions. These two teams are built up of younger players who play regionally, and Stoneman is committed to making sure the youth of the program is recognized. 

“I’m trying to build some sort of feeder program where a couple of those can move up,” Stoneman said. “If I only take to my gold team, you’re not gonna have others on campus buying into the whole process.” 

While winning a championship is always the goal, Stoneman’s priority is to make an impact on player’s lives and shape them into better people. 

“Every team that I’ve put together, I’ve determined the success of that team five-six-seven years down the road,” Stoneman said. “Are our guys being good guys within the community? Are they being good father figures? Good husbands? Can they hold a job? Those mean more to me than winning ball games. Five, six years down the road, then I can tell you if this team was successful.”

Coach Smith built Oak Hill into a national powerhouse. With big shoes to fill, he feels good about the decision to make Stoneman the next guy in line.

“I think he’s gonna do a great job,” Smith said. “He’s a good X-and-O guy. He’s a good people person, and he’s good with the players. That’s eighty percent of coaching, anyway.”

Stoneman is grateful to follow in Smith’s footsteps, and his mission is to continue what he started. 

“I just want to keep what Coach Smith built,” Stoneman said. “I’m sure I’ll set my own legacy, but because he’s a mentor and a father figure, my main goal is to keep what he built.”

Photo: Nick Storlazzi/Springfield Student staff

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