CONCORD, N.C. -- Chris Shinn is going back home. Jamie Billings has found a new one.
On Tuesday, the Independent Tribune learned that Shinn resigned from his post as athletics director at Concord High School to accept the same position at Mount Pleasant High School, which is near his childhood community.
Billings, who has spent the past eight years as athletics director at Huntersville’s Hopewell High School, has been hired to replace Shinn at Concord.
Although Billings is leaving a Class 4A school to lead Concord’s 3A athletic program, he said he can hardly wait to join the Spiders.
“It’s exciting,” Billings said. “It’s a storied tradition. It’s a very supportive community. Cabarrus County, in itself, has always supported athletics. (County athletics director) Bryan Tyson is doing a good job working hard for coaches, increasing supplements and bringing in good coaches. That’s always something you want. When you’re an athletic director, the most important thing you can do is surround your kids with good people, and they have that in Concord.”
At Mount Pleasant, Shinn replaces Phil Furr, who has taken a job as a football coach and teacher at Northwest Cabarrus High School.
Billings is a West Virginia native who played baseball at the University of Charleston in his home state and earned a degree in sports medicine. After college, he spent time as an assistant coach and teacher at DuPont High School, the alma mater of former NFL great Randy Moss and former NBA player Jason Williams.
Billings moved to North Carolina in 1997 and took a position at Charlotte’s Garinger High School. A short time later, he got his first experience with Concord High School athletics.
“My first football game that I went to in North Carolina 17 years ago was at Concord,” Billings said. “I remember thinking, ‘I could be a part of this.’ This environment was great. It was such a neat place. You could just tell they love their football, and that’s always exciting.
“It took me a while to get here, but I’m glad to be here.”
Billings joined the Hopewell staff as head baseball coach and athletic trainer in 2001, when the school first opened. He became the Titans’ athletics director in 2007.
Concord Principal Carla Black said Billings’ background made him an attractive candidate.
“I was looking for someone who had a great deal of experience,” Black said. “I had a chance to meet Jamie earlier in the year. When I found out Coach Shinn was looking to get closer to home, I reached out to Jamie. I think it’s going to work out well.
“You can pick an athletic director that can do the job, but you want to pick somebody that’s a good fit for what you’re looking for, for what the community needs, for what the schools needs. Jamie just seems to come with so much experience and understanding already. I didn’t really have to look long or far.”
Billings lives in Denver with his wife, Amber, and 3-year-old son, Bowen. He will commute to Concord daily.
“Thanks to (I-)485 opening, it only takes me 35 to 45 minutes, depending on traffic,” Billings said. “It used to take much longer than that, so I am fine.”
Shinn said he wasn’t looking to leave Concord. He had established some strong relationships in his two years leading the Spider athletic program. But Shinn grew up in the Georgeville community, just down the road from Mount Pleasant.
When the Tigers showed interest in hiring Shinn recently, he reciprocated. Black could understand.
“Chris had always told me that, at some point, he wanted to make his way back in that direction,” Black said. “The principal (Jon LaChance) called me and told me that he was very interested in pursuing Chris and knew that (Shinn) wanted to be in that community. I didn’t have a problem with that because Chris had already told me that if he left, that’s where he wanted to go. I wish him the best.”
Shinn said he couldn’t resist the opportunity to return to his roots. No matter where he’s worked, whether it was the 14 years he spent as a coach and teacher at Central Cabarrus, the two years he taught at the Glenn Center or the past two years he led Concord athletics, Mount Pleasant was never far from his mind.
“I went to high school at Central, but I could have gone to Mount Pleasant if I lived a half-mile further down the road,” Shinn said. “So a lot of the roads these kids come from are roads that I covered as a kid. Growing up, we had a Stanfield address and a Concord phone number, so I know about a small community. This is just more my neck of the woods.”
Shinn said he has the utmost respect for what Furr did at Mount Pleasant.
“You’re not going to replace Phil Furr,” Shinn said. “You just jump in and try to do the best you can and move on.
“I’ve always kind of admired this program from afar, just because of the small-town feel and the community involvement. When the opportunity presents itself, you’ve got to seize the moment and take it. I’m just tickled to be a part of it and be down here. To work with these coaches and these kids is really exciting.”
Shinn’s wife, Julie, works at Mount Pleasant High. He said he hopes his daughters, 4-year-old Kayley and 6-month-old Emily, will eventually graduate from the school.
“I wouldn’t have left and taken another job had it not been the Mount Pleasant job,” Shinn said. “It took a lot of prayer and a lot of thought. It was a hard move to make because I respect a lot of the coaches and kids at Concord. You hate leaving something that you put a lot of time into. But it was the right move for me and my family at this time.”