There are big changes within the Vinton County High School basketball program.

Veteran head basketball coach Matt Combs has left behind a historic run and a hall of fame banner for a new position at Unioto High School. Combs has coached all the boys’ varsity games at the current gym, while assistant coach NJ Kight has been by his side during 11 of those seasons.

Kight now takes over the reins as the new head coach and athletic director at the school.

A 1998 graduate of Jackson High School and the University of Rio Grande in 2003, Kight has been employed as a math teacher at VCHS for 18 years. He also serves as the girls’ tennis coach.

In addition, Kight was the head coach of the Vinton County Lady Vikings basketball program during the 2010-11 season.

Kight told The Telegram the transition has been smooth, but he believes he will still get jitters on game nights when the 2022-23 season opens.

“I got nervous before the games as an assistant coach," Kight stated. “Coach Combs left me in good shape, and he is a great friend.

Kight is excited about the opportunity to take over for Coach Combs and lead the program.

“I appreciate Principal JJ Milliken, Superintendent Rick Brooks, and the Board of Education for giving me the opportunity,” said Kight.  “I am excited to get things underway and I know I have some big shoes to fill.”

Among the goals in his first season is to put a competitive team on the court. Kight says the kids are working hard and he will retain a portion of Coach Combs’ staff. Jerrod Albright and Terry Hale remain while some new faces will be on the sidelines this season.

He also has the advantage of knowing the Tri-Valley Conference and the area teams. He says he wants the program to be business as usual and continue the strong tradition of Vikings basketball.  He says the team will mimic a lot of what Coach Combs did the last 11 years.

“We must play as hard and execute as well as we always have to be successful,” said Kight.

Kight has had positive experiences over the years in his coaching role. He will be guided, in part by techniques the coaching staff used in the historic 2016-17 season. The Vikings went 24-3 and was the Division II regional runner-up that season.

“I learned a lot about handling kids and getting the most out of them,” said Kight. “That group was super talented.”

Kight likes his team’s chances this year and is looking forward to the opportunity.

Kight also spoke about taking over the Athletic Director's role. Kight’s father Bob is the former athletic director at Jackson High School The younger Kight again believes his longevity and relationships with other schools is a plus.

“I just want to keep the athletic department moving forward,” said Kight. “We want all of our teams to be competitive and strong.”

Although Kight is looking forward to the next chapter in his life, he said he will miss teaching. He noted he has helped many students in the last 18 years on the academic track, and now he will be helping them in a different way.

Kight will be busy with the fall sports seasons ready to start, as well as preparing for his first season as the head basketball coach.