Zach Carnell was on the way to his first day as a head basketball coach on Thursday.

The former Ingomar standout is the new boys coach at Hickory Flat. His hire was approved Tuesday, and Carnell joined the team for practice two days later.

“I’ve played against Hickory Flat and coached against Hickory Flat, and I have been an assistant at Hickory Flat,” Carnell said. “So to have the opportunity to lead them, I’m ecstatic about it.”

Carnell, 28, has been at Kossuth the past two years as an assistant. He’s also coached at Southaven and Tupelo, and he was an assistant at Hickory Flat from 2012-14.

Carnell said he learned a lot as an assistant coach, but no one has shaped him the way Norris Ashley did. Carnell played for the coaching legend at Ingomar and was part of the 2010 state championship team.

“Just the way he could get the most out of somebody, it didn’t matter who they were, he was going to get the most out of you,” Carnell said. “You may not always agree with everything he said or you butted heads with him, but at the end of the day, he was one of the best role models I ever had.”

Carnell takes over a Hickory Flat team that went 9-20 last season. The Rebels haven’t had a winning campaign since 2015-16.

Rising junior Drew Wilson, who led the team in scoring last season at 14.6 points per game, will anchor the squad.

“I know Hickory Flat tends to have a lot of athletes, and I think there will be some still there,” Carnell said. “I hope that I can get in the school and talk some more into playing, because I have seen some of them, and they look like good athletes.”

Carnell replaces Brent Kuhl, who resigned from the position but will remain as the girls coach.

Twitter: @bradlocke

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