LAMPASAS — He never expected this.
Less than one year ago, Aaron Nuckles decided to leave Lometa, where he led the Hornets to four consecutive district championships, for Llano, looking to orchestrate an end to the Yellowjackets’ two-year playoff drought.
Despite suffering through a one-win season, his intentions were to resurrect the program, but fate altered his destiny.
On the heels of Lampasas’ most successful season in more than a decade, Badgers head coach Rob Shivers announced his retirement, presenting an opportunity for Nuckles to return to his hometown.
And he took it.
Nuckles was named Lampasas’ new head coach during Monday’s school board meeting, and while the Class of 2000 graduate is excited to take over the team he once played for, admittedly, it is an unexpected position.
“In the back my mind,” Nuckles said, “I always knew I wanted to get back here, and I knew when Rob decided to step down, it would be a good chance, but in this business, you never know when doors are going to open.
“I just never ever could have guessed it would be right now.”
After coaching at Lampasas Middle School for five years upon graduating from Texas A&M in 2004, Nuckles served as an assistant under Shivers before beginning his head-coaching career at Class 1A Lometa. He won 100 games in five seasons, advancing to the area round each year.
With aspirations of being at a larger program, however, Nuckles departed, but Llano struggled mightily, finishing with a 1-23 record as issues plagued the team on and off the court.
Lampasas athletic director Troy Rogers is confident the showing is merely an abnormality, though.
“I credit him for being willing to venture out and wanting to climb the ladder a little bit even though it meant taking a job where the program wasn’t very successful,” Rogers said. “There is a whole lot more to a person’s coaching ability than just one year.”
Nuckles agreed, considering his first encounter with professional adversity a valuable experience.
“I’m a better coach now than I was in November,” he said. “I’m so much better for it.
“To go through all the things we went through is unheard of, and I don’t ever want to go back to that. I’m going to do everything I can to never have another losing season.”
Regardless of how Nuckles’ debut with the Badgers goes, it will be difficult to eclipse his predecessor’s departure.
Shivers concluded his seven-year stint at Lampasas by leading the program into the state rankings, compiling a 20-game win streak, earning the team’s first district championship since 1994 and ending a 16-year stretch without a playoff victory.
Graduation is taking four starters from the lineup, though, including 19-4A All-District Defensive Player of the Year Daniel Hurst and first-team selections Jason Murphy and Tyler Shivers.
But Nuckles’ expectations are high.
“I think the players I’m inheriting fit into my philosophy really well,” he said. “They play fast and play pressure defense, and that is my style.”
Nuckles, who will also serve as an assistant cross country coach, will begin working with his new players immediately, and although he could have never predicted being in this position less than a year ago, he intends to remain at Lampasas for as long as possible.
“I’m either going to retire or get fired from this job,” Nuckles said, “and I’m hoping to retire.
“My personal goal is to throw away all my resumes and get settled in for a while.”