Central Cabarrus coach Jim Baker decides to fill Cannon basketball vacancy

Baker Ball is moving to Cannon School.

Cannon School athletics director Danny Scurlock announced on Thursday that Jim Baker, who coached Central Cabarrus to back-to-back undefeated seasons and state championships, will take over the Cougars’ boys’ basketball program.

Baker, who coached at Catawba College and elsewhere before taking the Central Cabarrus job seven years ago, said he hopes to take his high-octane offense and defense with him to his new school.

“Some of it is dependent on personnel, and we might not have everyone in place at the beginning, but I would like to play like that (Central Cabarrus).”

He replaces Che Roth, who resigned after 12 seasons at Cannon School to become head boys’ basketball coach at Oak Hall School in Gainesville, Fla.

Baker’s Central Cabarrus team adopted a style three years ago that combines a relentless pressing defense and a run-and-gun offense.

The Vikings averaged 89 points per game this season and allowed only 44.6 per contest.

Baker had a 134-53 record at Central Cabarrus, but the Vikings were 95-1 the past three seasons, since switching to the new style. They lost in the 2022 West Regional finals to eventual 3A state champion West Charlotte, then won the 3A state crown the past two years.

Was Baker looking for a new challenge?

“That’s exactly what it is,” he said on Friday. “I believe the good Lord has a plan, and that there’s another chapter for me.”

Most of the Vikings’ key performers this season were seniors, but Baker said there was a strong crop of younger players moving up.

“Believe me, it was difficult to leave Central Cabarrus,” Baker said. “The principal has been great, the athletic director has been great, and the community has been great.”

Baker said he wasn’t willing to make the move to Cannon School unless his son, Jake, a rising senior, would come along.

“Jake has a lot of friends (at Central Cabarrus),” Baker said. “He went over to Cannon, met all the people, and then gave it some thought. A few days later, he told us he wanted to move.”

Cannon School was 25-10 during the recent season and reached the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association’s 4A quarterfinals. The Cougars, who won state titles in 2020 and ‘21, lose leading scorer Austin Swartz, who will play in the ACC at Miami.

But seven of the Cougars’ 12 varsity players were freshmen, sophomores or juniors last season.

“We’ll probably take our lumps, early on,” Baker said. “But basketball is a sport where you can turn things around in a hurry.

“The facilities at Cannon School are outstanding, and I think we’ll get a lot of support.”

Boys’ assistant coach Domonick Reed and Cougars’ girls’ head coach Kelvin Drakeford played under Baker several years ago.

“I think this is the right move for me,” Baker said.