JONESBORO — David Daniel describes the recognition he will receive later this week as humbling.
Daniel, the athletic director for Jonesboro Public Schools from 2009-19, will be inducted into the Arkansas High School Athletic Administrators Association Hall of Fame on Friday night in Hot Springs. Hall of Fame inductions for coaches and officials will also be part of the Arkansas Activities Association event.
After attending the event in the past to watch others inducted, Daniel is among the honorees this year.
“The AAA has done a really good job of pulling all those together and doing it at one time, having everybody down there, coaches, officials and administrators. I’m really looking forward to it,” Daniel said. “I’m old enough now to realize that I’ve been so blessed being a coach and administrator, recognized many times for different things, but this is kind of a crowning point.
“As an athletic administrator, other than getting into the national hall of fame for the NIAAA, this is as good as it gets. I’m going to have fun with it. I’m going to get to see some good friends that I haven’t really connected with too much over the last couple of years because I’ve been out of the athletic world.”
Daniel spent 34 of his 43 years in athletics in various roles at Jonesboro, where he was hired as athletic director in 2009. His tenure as athletic director included 42 state championships across all sports and impressive facilities upgrades.
The greatest challenge as athletic director, Daniel said, came every spring when coaches changed jobs.
“You’re trying to hire different coaches for different positions, trying to get a coach who can teach a particular thing on a particular campus and make it all work, and usually they had a second sport,” said Daniel, who was named AAA Athletic Director of the Year in 2019. “That was always a challenge, but it was kind of fun, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.
“As far as the crowning achievement. I’m really proud of the fact that we had really good hiring practices, we were able to hire some really, really good, quality people. As far as the facilities, our community came together on this turf, track and lights project. It was unbelievable.
What started out as a $1.2 million project for artificial turf, new lights and a new track at Cooksey-Johns Field grew to include a new ticket entrance, a relocated scoreboard and press box changes thanks to fundraising success.
Jonesboro also updated Don Riggs Hurricane Gym during Daniel’s tenure, renovating the lobby along with restrooms, concession stand, coaches offices, locker rooms, a weight room and other areas. “Coach D” tried to attend as many games as possible while athletic director, although he quickly learned there were limitations with the number of hours required by the job.
“The first year I was athletic director, I played every down, every possession, every strike, every rally in volleyball. I figured out pretty quick that I couldn’t do that, that I wouldn’t be able to survive,” Daniel said. “I’m an early morning guy and I’d get to the office sometimes at 5:30 or 6, get the paperwork and emails done, and then I’m off to somewhere. Most people, when they get off at 4 or 5 o’clock, they’re going home, but that was the second half of the job coming. I may be in Mountain Home or Benton or El Dorado or wherever.
“You try to make sure your athletes understand that you can’t be everywhere all the time, but you want them to know you really care. They don’t know that you care until they see you. You can’t tell them, you have to show them, and you have to show up and they have to see your face sometimes.”
Daniel was an assistant boys’ basketball coach at JHS from 1979-81 and 1991-2003. After two years as a men’s assistant coach at Arkansas State, he returned to Jonesboro as head girls’ basketball coach for four seasons, then became athletic director.
Daniel was also Annie Camp Junior High’s boys’ basketball coach from 1986-91. Both of his sons played basketball for the Hurricane, and Matt is the head women’s basketball coach at Arkansas State.
A Walnut Ridge native, Daniel started his coaching career with two years as an assistant basketball coach at Weiner and later was the Cardinals’ head coach for five seasons. While best known for basketball as a coach, Daniel said he also worked with football, baseball and track and field at different times, and even led the Jonesboro girls’ soccer team for one game.
“We were trying to get a teacher-coach verified and we were waiting on some paperwork, and it wasn’t quite finished,” Daniel recalled. “We went somewhere up in Missouri, Poplar Bluff maybe, and I’m our only undefeated girls’ soccer coach. I coached a little bit of all of it.”
Daniel has spent the last two years as assistant vice president in charge of business development for First Community Bank. His name badge identifies him as “Coach D” and he remains a regular at Jonesboro athletic events.
While he’s out of coaching, Daniel said he misses it every day.
“I love to compete,” Daniel said. “If you put a scoreboard up there, I love winning and I don’t care what we’re doing.”