Upon returning to campus, the student-athletes at John Brown University were introduced to some new faces. Throughout the summer, the university has hired four new coaches across three sports.
On July 8, JBU announced the hiring of Chris Cole as its new head coach of the men’s soccer program. Cole replaces Brenton Benware, who resigned in June to take a job as the Director of Soccer Operations at Asheville Christian Academy in Swannanoa, North Carolina. Cole comes to JBU after spending the last seventeen years as a coach, teacher and athletic director at Grace International School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Cole, a JBU alumni, is the fifth head coach in program history, and is taking over a program that went 17-4 last season, winning the SAC Championship in the process.
On August 10, Jeff Soderquist, head women’s basketball coach, announced the addition of Trevor Ray to his staff. Ray replaces longtime assistant Von Eshnaur. Ray comes to JBU after spending two seasons as a men’s basketball graduate assistant at Montreat (N.C.), where he helped lead the Cavaliers to consecutive 24-win seasons. Trevor Ray will coach a team that will look to bounce back from a 9-win season in last year, its lowest win total since the 2006-07 season. Despite the team’s struggles last season, Ray still sees a team that can win some big games once the season starts.
“When you have a roster with this type of mix, it can really help develop leadership roles and boost team morale when everyone has a part of doing something special,” Ray said, while adding that “it’s going to take a complete team effort of selflessness and putting each other first.”
On August 17, Jason Beschta, head men’s basketball coach, announced two new additions to his staff with the hiring of Nate Quilling and A.J. Wiebe. They will replace Tim Kisner, who was hired in April as the new head men’s basketball coach at Oklahoma City. Quilling comes to JBU after three seasons as a graduate assistant at Trinity International, where the program went 42-48 during his tenure, which included a 21-11 season in 2017-18. Wiebe comes to JBU after two seasons at Link Year Preparatory Academy in Branson, Missouri. During his tenure, the Lions went 65-25 overall, and Wiebe played a role in sending 12 student-athletes into the ranks of NCAA Division I basketball. Both Quilling and Wiebe join a program that has been one of the SAC’s most dominant over the last two seasons, and the Golden Eagles return many of the pieces that made last season’s 28-win team so successful.
“I am really excited to see how the guys can respond after having a great year of success. It gives a little taste of what can potentially happen when you put everything together for a season,” Wiebe noted.
Mackenzie May was also among the new hires by the university, as she will be an athletic trainer on campus. However, she is not entirely new to the campus or the JBU community. “I did my final year of clinical rotations through the University of Arkansas’ graduate program in Athletic Training here, so I come in at least knowing all of these athletes,” May said, “I know the staff. I know this place really well.”
May is a former student-athlete, as she played college lacrosse at Colorado State University. May said that because of her experience as a student-athlete, she understands where those in the training room are coming from. “I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I know the athlete mentality. I’ve battled back from injury, I’ve pushed through injury and I’ve also had to be sidelined by that.”
When it comes to what draws excitement among the new hires in being at JBU, a common answer was the community.
“The athletic department is filled with servant leaders and people that really care about the students, staff and community. Like Montreat, the type of people here in the community and college are down to earth and relatable,” Trevor Ray said.
“I fell in love with the mission of JBU as well as the people. I think the people at JBU are exceptional,” May added. “That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that’s been here. I think they’d agree.”