HASKELL — After a year under Dwaine Fishburn as interim head coach, the Benton High School senior boys basketball team now has a full-time leader.
Following a 6-0 vote at Monday's Benton School Board meeting, 2006 Benton graduate and current Harmony Grove senior boys head coach Dexter Hendrix was named to the helm of one of the most coveted coaching positions in the state—Benton Panther basketball.
"I am very excited to go back to Benton and coach a great basketball program and help it continue to grow and take it to the next level," Hendrix said.
Following his senior year at Benton, Hendrix moved to the next level as a four-year starting guard at Arkansas Tech University. With his sights set on becoming a coach from an early age, Hendrix graduated college and took an assistant coach's job at Russellville High School coaching basketball and soccer.
A year after coaching away from home, Hendrix got the call he had longed for since childhood — his first head coaching gig. With Harmony Grove Athletic Director Ricky Mooney in need of a leader on the hardwood for his senior boys, Hendrix was hired to lead the Cardinals in 2012.
"I knew I wanted to be a coach from a very early age," Hendrix said. "I had the passion and love for the game of basketball and it is something that is very strong. I wanted to play for as long as I could and then when that was over I wanted to coach."
After a disappointing finish to his first season, Hendrix prevailed and led his squad to the first 3A State Tournament appearance in Harmony Grove history. The Cardinals fell in the semifinals to Charleston. Harmony Grove made the state tournament in 2009 and 2010 in class 2A.
With becoming a head coach as one of his goals, Hendrix took it a step further and exercised the idea of one day sitting at the beginning of the bench that he played off for so long.
"It was something that while you are in high school and go through college that you don't think about a whole lot," Hendrix said. "Then you think about how nice it would be and what a great opportunity it could be. The thing that really stands out at Benton is the school is so great. Not only the athletics, but the academics are great. Being a part of that as a kid and now going back to that is just a great opportunity."
Hendrix will finish his contract at Harmony Grove before actually taking over at Benton.
"I have to thank Mr. (Daniel) Henley and Coach Mooney and all of the administration there at Harmony Grove for giving me a chance to work for such a great school district and for the chance to coach there," Hendrix said.
"These past two years have just been wonderful," he said. "I have had a great time and built great relationships. I am going to miss those a lot but hope we can continue them."
By taking the helm at Benton, Hendrix becomes the first head boys coach to have graduated from the school and also coach there.
Fishburn will return to the assistant spot on the bench next season after leading the Benton Panthers to the semifinals of the 6A State Tournament the second straight season before falling to Jonesboro, which won the 6A State Championship.
"I am so lucky and fortunate to have two guys like Coach Fishburn and Coach (David) Torres and all their experience to work with," Hendrix added.
Torres will return as head coach of the Junior High Panthers next season, according to Benton Athletic Director Steve Quinn.
Torres' son, Blake, and Hendrix played together and graduated together at Benton in 2006.
Hendrix will begin the next chapter of his young coaching career at the end of the current school year.
"We are very excited to have Dexter," Quinn said. "His energy level and dedication to students and passion about the game of basketball will serve him very well as the head coach of the boys basketball program."
At the close of the current term, Quinn will be leaving the athletic director's post to become principal at Benton Middle School.