The East St. Louis boys basketball program began a new era on Friday with the announcement that native son Stetson Hairston has been named as the Flyers new head coach.
Hairston, 34, an assistant coach at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville for the past two years and a former standout at Belleville East, was approved Friday to become the 11th head coach in Flyers history. Hairston takes over the coaching duties from Phillip Gilbert, who was dismissed recently after two years at the helm.
“I am extremely excited and grateful for the opportunity to be the head basketball coach at East St. Louis High School. East St. Louis is the City of Champions, and I look forward to bringing a championship back to this community,” Hairston said. “There is a rich athletic tradition here, and we’re going to do things the right way both on and off the basketball court to add to that tradition. I can’t wait to get started.”
The official announcement of Hairston’s hiring came Friday afternoon from East St. Louis District 189 Superintendent Arthur R. Culver, who feels the Flyers basketball program is getting a good man in its new head coach.
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“We are very pleased to have Stetson Hairston as a strong head coach leading our boys basketball program,” Culver said in a press release. “Coach Hairston values academics and character building as much as winning seasons. We feel he will help our outstanding student athletes reach their full potential.”
A 2000 graduate of Belleville East, Hairston starred at Bridgton Academy in North Bridgton, Maine, for a year where he helped the school win 28 games and a conference title.
From there it was on to Southern Illinois University Carbondale in which he helped the Salukis earn four straight trips to the NCAA Division I Tournament. A four-year starter, two-time all Missouri Valley Conference selection and two-time member of the all-MVC Defensive Team, Hairston scored more than 1,000 points and grabbed more than 500 rebounds in his collegiate career.
SIUC was 55-1 at home during Hairston’s four year career.
Hairston has coached at the junior college, NCAA Division I and II levels in his 12 years as an assistant coach and coached under successful coaches such as NJCAA Hall of Fame coach Jay Harrington at Southwestern Illinois College as well coaches such as Bruce Weber, Matt Painter and Dickey Nutt.
In addition to his most recent stint at SWIC, Hairston also coached under Harrington with the Blue Storm from 2008-2010, leading the Southwestern Illinois College Blue Storm team to the Division I junior college national tournament.
Hairston has also been on the coaching staff at Chipola (Fla.) Junior College and the University of Montevallo. He was an assistant for two years at the University of Southern Indiana, and from 2014-2015 Hairston served on the coaching staff at Southeast Missouri State University.
“I am one of those people who enjoy and thrive on pressure. I feel that it brings out my best, and it makes me work ever harder to be successful.”
East St. Louis finished the 2016-17 season 18-8, reaching the Class 4A Regional final where it lost to Belleville West. Hairston said he wants to build a winning basketball program and help his players get into college and earn their degrees so that they can become productive citizens.
“That’s the ultimate goal and players in our program will be held accountable in the classroom and in the community as well as on the basketball court. We’re going to stress academics, and we’re going to run the program like a college program,” Hairston said.
Prude named Flyerettes coach
Also on Friday, District 189 selected Dr. Dwan Prude as its new girls basketball coach. Prude has been the girls coach at at Lincoln Middle School in East St. Louis for the last two years.
An East St. Louis native, Prude served as an assistant coach with the boys team from 2012-2015 and helped the sophomores win a SWC championship in 2013.
“All of my coaching experiences have prepared me for a sustainable, competitive advantage,” Prude said in a press release. “I truly believe that with the right staff and community support, we can — more sooner than later — re-establish a dynamic basketball program in the City of Champions.”