For the record, Tarleton State University graduate Kia McCarty was not named after a car — but he will be doing his best to drive the Stephenville Yellow Jackets deep into the boys basketball playoffs starting with the 2020-2021 season.

SISD Athletic Director Jerod Womack announced last Friday that the 32-year-old McCarty is the choice as the new boys basketball head coach at the high school to replace Bill Brooks, who recently stepped down from his coaching duties.

McCarty’s first name (pronounced “kigh-a” rather than “kee-a”) actually was named after an outstanding basketball player who his parents — who were both basketball coaches — had been impressed by when they were attending the boys state tournament.

In Saturday’s E-T, Womack noted being excited about McCarty joining the SHS “team,” adding, “He is a passionate coach with the strong ability to lead our boys basketball program.”

After graduating ranked third in a class of 44 students from De Leon High School in 2006, McCarty went on to earn a bachelor of science degree at Tarleton in December 2010.

McCarty was the boys head basketball coach at Class A Hermleigh for the 2019-2020 season and led the Cardinals to a remarkable milestone. The Cardinals won their first playoff victory in school history, which began 113 years ago when Hermleigh High School first opened, in 1907.

McCarty, whose mother, father and one of his grandfathers were all high school coaches, said he took the Hermleigh job without realizing the Cardinals’ previous futile postseason history.

“I had no idea on that,” McCarty said, noting that their breakthrough brought some rare attention to the West Texas six-man football school about 12 miles outside of Snyder. “It was pretty neat. It got a lot of press coverage.”

McCarty said that his Cardinals won 10 of their 12 games that were decided by five points or less, and won all four of their overtime contests plus several successful comeback triumphs.

“It was a multitude of things,” McCarty said of the ingredients that led to the Cardinals winning both their bi-district and area playoff games last season and finishing with a 20-15 season mark. “They executed. That was one of the most athletic teams I’ve had the pleasure of coaching. Their mentality was where they turned it around. They were a tough out. Those guys didn’t have any quit in them.”

McCarty said his coaching philosophy is “purely based on toughness,” and he prefers to use man-to-man style defense while showing various types of motion offenses.

“We will play defense,” he stated matter-of-factly. “But, I mold everything that I do to the strengths and abilities of my players.”

Brooks led the Jackets to the playoffs in each of his five seasons as the head coach of the Jackets. Last season SHS finished third among the District 7-4A boys, and they closed the campaign with an 18-14 mark after being eliminated in the bi-district playoff round by eighth-ranked Argyle.

McCarty said he feels the SHS boys basketball future looks bright.

“Stephenville will always have kids that are athletic, and always have kids that just get after it,” he said.

McCarty also noted of the SHS athletics culture he has observed, “Those guys battle, and they are winners. They find a way to win. That’s what I was brought up in.”

His father, Dudley McCarty, was a longtime boys head basketball coach at De Leon. His mother, Diane McCarty, was a girls basketball and track head coach who later served as that school’s overall athletic director for several years.

McCarty and his wife, Soundrea, have a 2-year-old son, Oaklin, and a 4-year-old daughter, MayLeigh.

Of his return to his college stomping grounds in Stephenville, which he called “the biggest little town in the state of Texas,” McCarty said, “My wife and I have a really special place in our hearts for the city of Stephenville. Stephenville has been one of those places we’ve always said (that) if the opportunity presented itself, we’d take it. The city of Stephenville is awesome. In the SISD, you feel comfortable raising your kids, and the school is such a great place.

McCarty also has coaching experience in football, track and baseball.

At Hermleigh, McCarty had also been the junior varsity boys basketball coach from 2013-2019, while also serving as varsity boys assistant coach. He was an assistant football coach under Greg Proffitt for seven years at Class 2A Goldthwaite. Greg’s father, former coach Gary Proffitt, had led Goldthwaite to three of the school’s four state football championships (1993-1994 and 2009).

McCarty will have classroom duties teaching history. His other coaching duties at SHS will be as an assistant coach in cross country and track and field.

“It doesn’t matter what it is, I enjoy coaching,” McCarty noted.