After serving for five months in an interim capacity, Katie Barton will now have the title of athletic director at St. James in addition to her role as girls’ basketball coach.
“It’s not something that was necessarily on my radar,” she said. “But St. James has been my home for the last 20 years and, professionally speaking, this is where I’ve been my entire career. I love St. James and what we stand for. If I have a chance to serve in this capacity, that’s what turned me on to it, to be honest.”
St. James head of school Larry McLemore put Barton in charge in December after the departure of former athletic director Jerry Browning. He made it clear Barton was the person for the job, but only if she felt the same way.
“When you’ve got somebody that’s such a fit and an embodiment of what your school stands for and your mission within your school, that’s always a great thing,” McLemore said. “Her commitment to St. James, her character and her love for her students really just sets her apart as an incredible person to lead the athletic department for St. James School.”
In early May, he announced that Barton had accepted the position on a full-time basis. While other schools must often conduct extensive searches to find an athletic director, McLemore said his familiarity with Barton was a primary reason why his search for a successor to Browning was simple.
“I’ve actually coached with the coaching staff in the past when she was a coach and have known her in that capacity, I’ve been a teacher and being head of school at St. James I’ve gotten to see how she leads a program over many, many years,” McLemore said. “Not only that, but she’s done a lot in the youth sports programs in terms of developing that. Her understanding of the importance of athletics for our children and making a positive impact in their lives is huge.”
Barton will give up her position as a physical education teacher at the school, but will remain as the girls’ basketball coach.
Being an athletic director “is a lot of work,” she noted, “and I am going to continue to coach basketball because that’s a passion on mine. I love my players and I’m not going to let that go. But a chance to serve the athletic department in this capacity is appealing.”
She is the school’s winningest basketball coach, boys or girls, and is expected to pass the 400-win mark this season. She has coached the Trojans to nine 20-win seasons, eight regionals and one state tournament appearance.
“She wanted to continue that and we’re glad,” McLemore said, “because I don’t know how we would replace her there.”
Through the first 20-plus years of the St. James athletic department, the Trojans’ athletic director was the head football coach as well. The last two athletic directors at the school, John Bricken (1993-2008) and Browning (2008-2020), were administrators hired to oversee the athletic department.
Barton’s path more closely follows that of Michelle Simmons, the former girls’ basketball coach at G.W. Carver who took over the athletic director’s role in the early 2000s, and Jessica Lassiter, who took over as athletic director at Trinity in early 2019, then stepped down from her dual role as volleyball coach of the Wildcats.
“I really leaned on John Bricken,” Barton said. “John Bricken hired me in 2001 and I’ve maintained my relationship with him over the years. If I could model my career after someone, it would be him. I got a lot of advice from him on it.”
Barton was an all-state point guard at Prattville High in the mid-1990s before taking her talents to Auburn University Montgomery, where she still ranks near the top in several career statistical categories. He graduated in 2001 and immediately took a job at St. James, where she has remained ever since, gradually adding a family that is just as entrenched in Trojan athletics.
“That’s one thing we’ve done as a family,” Barton said. “Whatever we’ve done at St. James, my kids have always been a part of it. And my husband, I wouldn’t be able to take on this extra responsibility if I didn’t have someone as supportive as he is.”
Barton said there is no issues or concerns to address in her new role, but hopes St. James’ students will take an active role in athletics, either as participants or supporters, in the future.
“All of the coaches that are working at St. James are amazing and I have a good working relationship with them,” she said. “We have amazing coaches that do a great job and we want to keep that momentum going.
“Another thing is when you’re a small school, you really need multiple-sport athletes and coaches who contribute in multiple areas and we have a lot of that, but I would like to see it grow even more.”