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LA GRANGE — Johnston County Hall of Famer and retired North Lenoir baseball coach Jim Montague said family has been a big part of his coaching success that led him to his induction into the North Carolina Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Friday night.
“Whatever you do, I want it to say something about thanking my wife of 22 years,” Montague said.
Sitting in his former office at North Lenoir, Montague said his wife, Sherry, was a big part of his success because she supported him all the way through.
“I’ve seen fellow coaches go through divorces because of sports, you spend a lot of time away from the family,” Montague said. “She is a big supporter of anything that me and (daughter) Alison have did in sports.”
For Montague, sports and family go hand in hand. Montague grew up in Garner, but moved to the McGee’s Crossroads community his sophomore year where he was All-Conference at South Johnston his junior and senior year in 1975 and 1976 under coach Bruce Coats.
Montague grew up in a house of athletes as his father played football at Goldsboro, his mom played basketball for ECU, his brother played football, basketball and baseball with him, and all three of his sisters played at least one sport with two of them getting volleyball scholarships. Montague ended up getting a baseball scholarship at UNC-Wilmington, where he graduated from in 1980.
After a shortlived professional baseball career, Montague got into coaching at Grantham Middle School in 1984. After years of coaching at C.B. Aycock and Havelock, Montague landed at North Lenoir in 1991. It was soon after he would learn the importance of family in coaching from a basketball coach.
When asked how his team was looking by another coach, Montague said he was rebuilding. The coach laid upon him a nugget he carried ever since.
“He said, ‘Let me tell you something about that phrase.’ As long as you stick around, show establishment in your program, your players are going to have brothers and sisters and moms and dads, and what you do here is going to pass on, pass on, you’ll never rebuild, you’ll just reload,’” Montague said. “I’ve always coached by that philosophy too. By the time they got here, through my longevity of staying here, they knew what to expect when they got here.”
Montague said it took him 11 years to really build the culture he wanted for his team. Soon after that, championships came. In 2004, he had five freshmen starting on his varsity team — a rarity for Montague. One year later, his squad won the 2005 NCHSAA 2-A state championship. The group would win the title again the next year and lost game three of the 2007 state championship series.
Montague would retire from coaching baseball six years later to support his daughter’s softball career. As a baseball coach, Montague was 358-183 while going to five regional finals. Montague helped make North Lenoir known as a baseball school and his culture of a family-like atmosphere has lived on.
Current North Lenoir head baseball coach Jackson Massey played against Montague’s teams at C.B. Aycock and was partially hired by Montague in 2016. He said he greatly appreciates what Montague did for the school he now coaches.
“The players he coached are still actively involved with our program now,” Massey said. “Even after he’s been retired, the same expectations still exist. I think he did a really good job of laying that foundation, and did a really good job of having his players uphold those expectations.”
But Montague’s retirement was shortlived as North Lenoir’s softball coach decided to focus only on volleyball.
Alison made her plea and Montague called the state and asked officials to rip up his retirement papers as he would coach softball to conference championships for the next three years. Alison ended up with a softball scholarship to Barton College in 2017, where her aunt played volleyball at years earlier.
Jim Montague finally retired and now gets to watch from the sidelines like he originally planned.