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New Heber Springs coach hopes to build on dad’s legacy

by Sam Pierce | May 2, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.
Jordan Riley is the new head boys basketball coach for the Heber Springs School District. He has spent the past two years as the girls basketball coach at Batesville Southside.

For Jordan Riley, his basketball career has come full circle. He was just a little boy when his dad, Alvin Riley, coached at Heber Springs, and Jordan’s mom’s sister was a coach there as well. And now, Jordan is returning to Heber Springs to be the new boys basketball coach.

“It is really neat. [My dad] wasn’t there a long time, but he did have some successful teams there,” Jordan Riley said. “He had some really good players that he still remembers and talks about, and I hope to build on my dad’s legacy.

“My dad is probably a future hall of famer, having won more than 800 games at the varsity level. Following in his footsteps is something I would like to do, and I don’t know if I can do it, but we are going to give it our best shot.”

Riley graduated from Vilonia High School in 2008, and his dad, who just recently retired, was the girls basketball coach there for 20 years.

“My dad has definitely been the biggest influence in my coaching career,” Riley said. “And I’m sure he will continue to be as we go on this journey. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around the game a long time, with some good coaches and really good basketball minds.

“But my dad has definitely been a big influence.”

Tim Bullington, athletic director for the Heber Springs School District, said that after sifting through more than 40 applications from across the state and approximately 16 hours of interviews, Riley made an impact on the administration.

“We are excited to welcome Coach Riley to our athletic family at Heber Springs,” Bullington said. “Coach Riley will bring excitement and high expectations to our basketball program.

“We are excited to have him and his wife here with us.”

Riley graduated from the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, initially getting a degree in information technology, working in the corporate world for three years. He started coaching in 2015 and finished his Master of Arts in Teaching degree in 2017.

“I’ve been in the game of basketball my whole life, and it was something I had always considered and thought I wanted to do,” Riley said. “When I started college, I wanted to chase the money and not necessarily follow my heart.

“I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go back and get a good job.”

Mike Dean was superintendent of the Two Rivers School District when Riley was the girls basketball coach there for three years.

“He is a great individual, a good person and a hard worker,” Dean said of Riley. “He has a good relationship with the kids, and he coaches hard. He is a very knowledgeable basketball coach.”

Dean said Riley is one of the most prepared coaches and knows how to deal with kids.

“He is embedded with knowledge and understanding,” Dean said. “The game has changed over the years, but he has the knowledge and is very good with dealing with kids.”

Riley has been the girls basketball coach at Batesville Southside High School for the past two years. The team finished the season 18-10 and was region runner-up, qualifying for the state tournament for the second year in a row.

“I wouldn’t say I wanted to leave, but it was just the right opportunity and time for both me and my wife,” Riley said. “It was just a chance to get closer to our families, and there is a chance to build something special there with the boys basketball program.”

Riley’s wife, Kelsi, will work at Heber Springs High School as well, as a business teacher. She currently works at Midland. He said they are excited to work in the same district. The couple have been married for just a little over two years, and they have a son, Drew, who is 14 months old.

“We had the goal of eventually getting in the same district, and it was just one of those things that worked out,” Riley said.

Riley was an assistant coach for Dustin Williams at Two Rivers, and the two coached against each other for a couple of years. Williams said the two of them have become best friends and have been in each other’s weddings.

“He is a passionate, high-energy guy,” Williams said of Riley. “He is a great student of the game and a good guy to be around.

“His teams are always the most prepared that you are going to find. I felt like they were always prepared. His teams are the ones you don’t want to play.”

He said Heber Springs got a good coach.

“He would have been my first phone call if I was looking to hire somebody,” Williams said. “They are going to be well-prepared and play great defense under him.”

Riley’s official start date is July 1.

“I think you have to build your team philosophy around your personnel,” Riley said. “We have to play to our strengths and not let teams play to our weaknesses.

“That just comes with playing smart basketball and being really disciplined and having a team-first mindset.”


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