Providence Christian lured Joey Thacker back into high school coaching on a full-time basis this summer, returning to the profession after a successful journey in the business world.
The 48-year-old coached varsity basketball in his native Ohio for five years early in his career at two high schools, Sims Valley and Fairland, but wanted to use his business finance degree for a different path. He worked in sports marketing for ISP Sports, which later became IMG College, and has been the CEO of Huddle Tickets since 2011, guiding the introduction of the popular GoFan digital ticketing provider used by many area high schools.
While that was his full-time gig, Thacker continued to coach basketball at the youth level in the feeder program for Lambert, and was a co-founder and coach of the Triple Double Basketball organization, which was built through players from the Forsyth County and North Fulton areas.
A past business partnership with Providence athletic director Brad Williams was the connection that got Thacker back into coaching. He plans to remain a member of the board at Huddle while scaling back to focus on his duties with the Storm.
“I know the leadership at Providence and I love the mission of Providence,” Thacker said. “I think it’s a school that is missional but it’s not for a certain demographic, there’s a lot of diversity. They stay true to their mission. And they’re in Gwinnett County. I like the facilities. But there’s just something about it with the school staying true to who they are and also wanting to do great things at the athletic level.”
Thacker, who played basketball at Liberty University, brings a few players from his own family to Lilburn. He and his wife Jamie, a former all-state basketball player in Ohio, have five children, including Chance, a rising sophomore who was a key varsity reserve for Class AAAAAAA Lambert last season.
“I put the ball in (Chance's) court on the decision (to stay at Lambert or transfer to Providence), and he chose to come with me,” Thacker said. “He’s made the decision to join us, and it’s a big transition for him. But I think it’s really going to push him to develop a lot of leadership properties. I told him we’re going to build this together.”
Providence has struggled with depth and in the win-loss category in recent seasons, including a 3-24 record in 2018-19. The Storm also won three games in 2017-18 and only one game in 2016-17.
“We’ve had a good summer,” Thacker said. “We went to Berry (College) and we went to Asheville. Every game we played in was super competitive. We were winning most games and played a couple of good teams. We won a few games against public school talent in the Asheville camp. We handed a couple of games away and we had only practiced a couple of days before with me. We didn’t have anything in. We saw some good things. It was a situation where they needed a dose of reality of where they stand and what it’s going to take to get where they want to be. And teaching them how to win. We’re young, but we’ve got good, young kids. My rising ninth-grade, rising 10th-grade kids are really good. My rising eight-grade kids are really good.
“I think you’ll see a difference this year and as we roll some of those new kids in the next couple of years you’ll see some real progress with the program.”
Thacker, a Suwanee resident, is excited about the new endeavor, particularly because it gives him more opportunities to work with young people, which takes advantage of his college minor — youth ministry.
“My message to my guys has been two core values,” Thacker said. “Are we humble? Are we hungry? We’re building a culture and a lot of people talk about that in basketball. In my experience starting up Huddle and taking it to the venture stage, taking a company and building a big company, we stayed true to our core values. That’s what we’re going to do with the basketball program. You need to know why we exist, how we behave, and we’ll let the results speak for themselves.
“It was be a fun experience for the guys. It will be uncomfortable at first. But once they get through it, see it and see the impact once we buy in, it will be worth it. I’m here to grow young men and teach them to be part of something bigger than themselves. In today’s basketball, that’s rare.”
THE THACKER FILE
Name: Joey Thacker
New position: Head boys basketball coach at Providence Christian
Former position: CEO of Huddle Tickets, co-founder and coach for Triple Double Basketball
Education: Graduated from Chesapeake High School (Ohio); earned degree in business finance from Liberty University (Va.) with a minor in youth ministry
Background: CEO of Huddle Tickets, which launched its GoFan digital app, since 2011; previously worked for ISP Sports at Marshall University; co-founder and coach at Triple Double Basketball, a youth organization based heavily in Forsyth County and North Fulton; coached varsity basketball for five years in Ohio, winning three sectional championships; coached varsity at two schools, Sims Valley and Fairland; played college basketball at Liberty
Family: Wife Jamie; sons Chance, 16, Samuel, 13 and Lincoln, 11; daughters Haley, 7 and Allie, 5