When the baseball field at Southeast Alamance High School is built, it better have a warning track.
When B.J. Condron walks past Orange High’s baseball field, he playfully chides his fellow gym teacher, baseball coach Jason Knapp, about the lack of a warning track inside Panther Field.
“He comes up to me and says ‘You got that warning track in yet?'” Knapp said. “That’s the first thing I’m going to be looking for when I go over there is a warning track.”
Perhaps a warning track would be a wanted addition for some across Orange, but it can’t begin to make up for the loss that the Hillsborough community will suffer when the current academic year ends.
On February 28, Condron told his Orange women’s basketball team that he was stepping down in order to become the first Athletic Director at Southeast Alamance High School. It ends a tenure of ten years for Condron as the Orange women’s basketball coach. In December 2021, Condron won his 100th game with a victory over Northeast Guilford.
“This is really the only opportunity I would have left Orange for,” Condron said. “I wasn’t seeking out a new job. I knew I wanted to take on the challenge of being an athletic director. When this came open, it seemed like a good fit.”
In another instance of things ending the way it began, Condron’s last game as Orange coach came at Southern Wayne High School, where he graduated and played basketball. Condron’s senior year head coach, Michael Broadhurst, was on hand to watch the Saints defeat the Lady Panthers 58-52 in a physical battle to open the 3A state playoffs.
In her final game, senior center Erin Jordan-Cornell had one to remember. She scored 12 points and grabbed 18 rebounds with four blocks.
Jordan-Cornell, who was also All-Conference in volleyball, has had to endure two knee surgeries, the second of which took most of her junior year. Both times, Condron came by her house and delivered confetti cake, her favorite.
“He wanted to make sure I had a good mindset,” Jordan-Cornell said. “He truly cares about his player on and off the court.”
Jordan-Cornell also served as a student advisor with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association this year. She was told about the opening from Condron.
“I couldn’t be more grateful to him for giving me that opportunity.”
Jordan-Cornell, Jada Reed, Nikayla Whitted and Katelyn Van Mater were the seniors for this year’s Orange team. Condron coached Jordan-Cornell, Reed and Whitted on summer travel teams before they even started classes at Orange. When Condron called a team meeting inside Orange’s Driver’s Ed room days after the Southern Wayne loss, the players thought it for setting up the end of year team banquet and get togethers away from school.
“I’ve known those players and their families because they had siblings that played for me,” Condron said. “I choked up. I put a lot of work in. They put a lot of work in. Having to look at them and realize that I wouldn’t be coaching them next year wasn’t easy.”
This season, Orange went 14-13 and won the championship of the Eastern Guilford Holiday Invitational in Gibsonville, beating Northeast Guilford in the final. Jordan-Cornell was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Condron started as head coach in 2013, replacing Adrienne Jordan, who has served as an assistant during much of Condron’s tenure. In his first season, Condron finished 2-24 and plenty of headaches. His most experienced guard was Alicia Harris. Whenever he replaced her, a shrill, high-pitched voice was bellow out from the stands “COACH, WHY DID YOU TAKE MY SISTER OUT? PUT HER BACK IN!”
As if the the piercing message wasn’t understood, the young girl would run across the court behind Orange’s bench to really get her point across.
“She told me everything I was doing wrong,” Condron said. “I tuned it out as best as I could.”
That young girl was Aaliyah Harris, who would go on to play regularly for Condron starting in her freshman season in 2018-19. Aaliyah would become a two-time All-Conference player and now suits up for Randolph-Macon College.
“He gave me so much confidence and he’s the reason I’m the player I am today,” Aaliyah Harris said.
Orange went from two wins in 2012-2013, to nine wins in 2014-2015 to 8-17 in 2015-2016.
Then came 2016-2017, when the pieces came together for possibly the greatest Orange women’s basketball team ever.
They opened the year with a school-record 21-game winning streak, capturing the Big 8 Conference regular season and tournament championships. On New Year’s Eve 2016, the Lady Panthers defeated Bartlett Yancey to win the Eastern Alamance Holiday Hoops Invitational in Mebane, ringing in the New Year with a celebratory bus ride back to Hillsborough just hours before 2017 officially started. They finished 26-2 and reached the third round of the 3A State Playoffs.
Kaylen Campbell, the leading scorer on that team, joined Condron’s staff as an assistant this year after spending four years at Trinity College in Connecticut. The 2016-2017 squad also included seniors Mia Davidson (who started at center and went on to become the all-time leading home run hitter in Southeastern Conference softball history), Enzyah Holt, Mary Beth Dobbins, Bethlyn Early, Jazlyn Watson, and Adalyn Fleming, who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and has completed several Boston Marathons.
Davidson, Holt and Dobbins went on to capture a state championship in softball later that summer, becoming the first female sports team in Orange High history to win a state title.
“You like to be optimistic with teams and tell them to trust the process,” Condron said. “But I don’t feel like things come together often for a storybook like that team did. After telling them for so many years ‘Look, you keep working and it’s going to get better and better and better.’ More often that not, it pays off it something that isn’t wins and losses. But for it to pay off at their success on the court that year was pretty special.”
Condron’s 2018-2019 squad finished with 19 wins and came in second place in the Big 8 Conference. It included Icez Barnett, who went on to play at Chowan, and Kate Burgess, now a member of the UNC Rowing team.
Barnett was on hand for Condron’s final home game last month, a victory over Eastern Alamance.
“Coach Condron was always intentional in empowering us as players and people on and off the court,” said Samantha George, a freshman at Duke University who graduated from Orange in 2022. “He was committed to our basketball successes, but also always wanted to know about what we had going on outside of the gym. We were very close as a team, especially my senior year, because of the precedent he set.”
Plenty has changed at Orange since Condron arrived a decade ago. His friend, Greg Motley, stepped down as men’s basketball coach in 2018. Condron served as an assistant during Motley’s final few months as head coach while also handling his women’s duties. A few months later, Dean Dease ended his legendary stint as baseball coach. Knapp, formerly of Walter Williams, was chosen as Dease’s successor.
As Hubert Davis can tell you, replacing a legend can be a thankless task. Dean Dease stepped down with 503 career wins, 12 conference championships and a state championship. Knapp says it was Condron that made him feel welcome in Hillsborough.
“B.J. was one of the first to call and congratulate me,” Knapp said. “He asked me ‘How does it fell to come in after a legend? Does that scare you a little bit?’ It didn’t scare me, but it was big shoes to fill. I felt like I knew that I was the right man for the job two years later when we walking on the track during class and he said ‘You’re like a clone of Coach Dease. You walk on the field all the time. You take care of that field. You walk on it all the time. You operate a lot alike as baseball coaches. It’s like that just went from Coach Dease to Coach Dease Jr.’ When he said that, I knew I was at home.”
Condron hasn’t decided whether he will coach at Southeast Alamance, but he won’t have to drive as far to work. His son, Jalen, will have his father as a teacher by the time he reaches high school in two years–much to his chagrin.
“He’s the one person most unhappy about this move,” Condron said. “I don’t think he’s excited about having me at the same high school as him. But I think he’s warming up to it.”