Scott Jackson on becoming a head coach, leaving UNC and faith in baseball

Liberty University announces Scott Jackson as the seventh head coach in Liberty University Baseball's history. A press conference is held in the Team Room at the Liberty Baseball Stadium on July 18th

After eight years as an assistant coach under Mike Fox at North Carolina, Scott Jackson left Chapel Hill to start his own head coaching career at Liberty. The North State Journal caught up with him a week after he was introduced as the Flames’ new head coach to talk about making a leap to being a head coach, the transition out of UNC, and playing the Tar Heels in the future.North State Journal: You have a lot of major changes happening. How’s it been? When did all of that get started? Scott Jackson: You know how that stuff goes, you’re out on the road all summer and kind of the rumors start to fly a little bit. I had gone up there and interviewed and then I think was one on the front end, so there was a little bit of time to wait. Then one thing led to another and here I am. It’s crazy.When did that process kind of start with you interviewing?Our Athletic Director here, Jeff Barber reached out to Mike Fox and just wanted to see if I was OK if he approached me about it. I think probably over a two-week span, two and a half weeks, things worked out. I was up there interviewing, I believe, on the 7th or 8th of July. And then after a week or two, here we go. He called me and offered me the job. And it’s been a whirlwind. I can tell you that much.No kidding, I can believe that. There’ve been rumors in past years linking you to other coaching openings, what was it about Liberty that kind of stood out?I think here, first of all, I was here as an assistant, and it’s just an unbelievable place to have your family. Just a good faith-based Christian campus with students who just really celebrate their faith and there’s a lot of opportunity for your family to be a part of the church that’s right here on campus. It’s a really cool thing that I really enjoy and then you throw in the fact that there’s resources and facilities here that are probably better than some of the ACC, SEC schools and you throw all that together, and the last part is my wife’s entire family is from right in this area, so just a lot of things, personally, professionally, spiritually, that I think are really, really different here and unique here. I think you can put yourself in the position to hopefully contend for a postseason every year. It was a win-win in all of those areas and here I am.UNC has a history of recruiting guys that have strong Christian values, there were guys with Christian walk-up songs. Does your experience bringing those guys in translate well to recruiting at Liberty and recruiting to a place that’s so rooted in faith?I think we all want to coach good kids. That makes it fun. We would have recruits that would ask coaches at UNC. I think a lot of families knew that our whole entire coaching staff were believers and so that was something that would come up now and again. I think coming here, and being around some of those kids [at UNC] and being able to see how they impacted my life and not just the way we impacted them, I’m looking forward to having a roster full of those guys and just having a blast with the new guys. We’ve got some unbelievable kids in here right now for summer school. So I can’t wait to get them all back here in August.It seems like this kind of a ‘baptism by fire’ almost just getting in there so late in the game. Does that make it more difficult with the transition or do you just kind of get in there and go on autopilot?You just go. The last couple days, this is the first night, I probably sound like I’m hungover, but this is the first night that I’ve had more than about three hours of sleep. You lay down, and there’s just too much on your mind, you want to get this done, you want to get that done. You want to touch base with all of the players. I’m still trying to run a couple of those guys down this week. You’re talking about recruiting, which is the lifeblood of your program. There’s just so many things that go through your mind as a head coach that are your responsibility, and it’s fun, but it’s exhausting at the same time. But yeah, it’s definitely baptism by fire. I think that’s the best way to say it.Is it about what you expected making the the jump from assistant to head coach? Is there anything that kind of jumped up that you didn’t realize you’d have to do?I think you think you know, but then once you get going, you have no idea. Like holy cow. I didn’t think it was going to be this crazy. Just the text messages, the emails, the phone calls. I’m one of those that wants to get back to everybody ASAP and you can’t do that. You have things here on campus you have to address and you have to prioritize. One of my best friends is Cliff Godwin, the head coach at East Carolina. I texted him the other day and I said, ‘you told me it was going to be crazy, but you didn’t tell me it was going to be this crazy.’ He started laughing. He said, ‘just hang in there, man, it’ll slow down.’ We joked about that a little bit. It’s definitely at a speed that I expected, but there’s a lot more going on at that speed, if that makes sense.That definitely makes sense. Have you talked to Coach Fox since your move?I talked to coach. I was in Chapel Hill Tuesday to clean out my office and just kind of wrap things up there and give him my keys, parking pass, all that kind of stuff. It was like a dream. Is this really happening? It was very difficult to leave. More difficult going over to Coach [Scott] Forbes’ house later that night because coach Forbes has two daughters and I have two sons, so our families have spent so many hours together. Not just saying goodbye, but I had a chance to talk to coach for a while and just kind of let him know how much he’s impacted my career and my life and those eight years were incredible. What a great place.Did you ever envision yourself leaving Chapel Hill? Or was leaving to start a head coach career elsewhere always a part of the plan?No, I never, when I first got there, that was the place I’d always dreamed of coaching. It never entered my mind that leaving would be something that I wanted to do. You put your head down and you work and you look up when there’s opportunity and if it’s there and it’s something you want to do, then great, if not then put your head down and keep working. That’s kind of how I have always done things. I’ve been fortunate to have opportunities in my career. I think if you’re always looking for the next job, you’re just not going to be where your feet are with your own job. That was something that I always thought, I’ll just always keep my feet on the ground in Chapel Hill and do my best and I never thought really about leaving. But an opportunity would come and I’d address it. This is something that it’s the only thing at this point that it was really something I wanted to do and so I can’t wait. My family is coming up here today.This season you and Coach Fox kind of switched places, you were coaching more out of the dugout. Do you feel like that was a calculated move at all knowing maybe you could end up in a head coaching job?Not at all. I think Coach was at a point where he wanted to turn the offense over to me and just let me have it. I think he wanted to have more of a presence in the dugout and just sit there and manage the game instead of run the game, does that make sense? Just managing it instead of running it and I think it was something he enjoyed. I know it was something I really enjoyed. It helps you as a coach. We did it all the time in the scrimmages and stuff. Of course it’s not the same until you get in the fire and you get in the battle. It was definitely not calculated but it’s going to help me down the road for sure.As far as scheduling, Liberty plays UNC fairly often, is that something that you want to schedule for next year or you want to wait a little bit before having them come up to you guys or you coming back to Chapel Hill?We’ve got it on the schedule for April 18th next year. We’re going to go down to Chapel Hill. I can’t wait.Is that going to be weird to be in the visitors’ dugout and not wear a Carolina blue uniform?I’ve had some luck in that dugout. We beat ECU and Stanford in that dugout to go to Omaha in 2009 and 2011. So I’m going to hope that that luck stays with me when I go back over there.