The more time L.J. Hepp spent away from the area, the more he realized where home really was.
The Raleigh native has a number of former job titles to his name, mostly related to his basketball experience – former director of basketball operations at the University of South Carolina, assistant coach at Stanford and Tulsa universities, head coach of a Japanese professional team – but his best memories reside in coaching at the high school level.
After two years away from Panther Creek, Hepp returned to the school this year as an assistant athletics director. He was promoted to the school’s athletics director position on Tuesday.
Hepp said even though he’s coached at the college and pro levels, his favorite memories were at Panther Creek.
“Panther Creek is a place I love,” said Hepp, who has been the school’s altnerative learning center coordinator this year. “To come back into that and still be a part of their lives and a part of their community was one of the neatest things in coming back.”
Hepp said a conversation he had with Wake County Public Schools System athletics director Bobby Guthrie shortly after returning to the area, which sparked his interest in being involved as an athletics director.
When it just so happened that current PC athletics director Todd Schuler agreed last month to take the position at Cardinal Gibbons next year, Hepp was in the right place.
“Those jobs don’t turn over very often. They’re really awesome leadership roles within school,” Hepp said. “For that to turn over at Panther Creek where I’ve been and have gone back to, it just really came back into place. How fortunate am I for that to have happened? I would have never have imagined for it to turn out that way.”
Hepp was 28-3 in his last year coaching the Catamounts boys basketball team during the 2008-09 season. The Leesville Road and UNC-Chapel Hill graduate left immediately afterward for the position at South Carolina, where he spent one year before coaching the Oita Red Devils in Japan.
Hepp didn’t finish the season in Oita after management fired him during the year for not being able to retain American players who left for home after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit the country. He and his wife moved back to the states, and he was working at Panther Creek the next school year.
He said he will continue to assist the school’s altnerative learning center next year, but not be the coordinator.