When a former boss — a mentor who also happens to be the winningest active coach high school basketball coach in the country and the third-winningest prep coach ever — asks to give him a call, it’s best that one complies. When that coach taps you on the shoulder and suggests that you be the guy to take over his program, one doesn’t very easily turn it down.

Yerrick Stoneman had the good sense to reply in the affirmative on both instances.

A phone conversation last June between Stoneman and legendary Oak Hill Academy coach Steve Smith has resulted in Stoneman being named as the next basketball coach at Oak Hill, as Smith announced recently that he will be retiring from coaching at the end of this season. Stoneman is a Galax native, a former assistant under Smith, a former girls’ basketball and volleyball coach at Galax High School and currently the head boys’ basketball coach at Ridge View High School in Columbia, S.C.

It was early last summer and Stoneman was in summer training with the National Guard at Fort Knox, Ky., when he received a text from Smith, asking for a phone call. Smith indicated that he would hang up the whistle after this season and that he’d like Stoneman to take over.

“My first reaction was that B-Rock (OHA assistant Bryan Meagher) is more deserving because he’s been there for the past 20-some years,” Stoneman said. “I wanted to make sure about him and that he had withdrawn his name. So if coach Smith calls me and says he thinks that I can get the job done then I can’t turn that down.”

Quite a ringing endorsement, that.

Smith and OHA are synonymous with outlandish success. In 37 seasons Oak Hill Academy has won more than 1,200 games under Smith’s guidance. The Warriors have accumulated nine national championships, have had more than 45 players named all-America by one outlet or another and have had three dozen players eventually play in the NBA.

Each of those numbers will undoubtedly increase by the time Smith officially steps down as Oak Hill (29-7) is currently ranked No. 7 nationally, has numerous future D-I players on its roster and is gearing up for a postseason run towards a possible 10th natty.

“For him to reach out pretty quick after he had made that [retirement] decision, that might say something about me but it says a lot about whose hands he wants the program to be in,” Stoneman said. “It’s still going to be his program. The man put almost 40 years into it and with all the success he’s had, it’s hard to think that it will ever not be Steve Smith’s program.”

But Stoneman, who was an OHA assistant from 1996-2007 before becoming Galax’s girls’ coach, has made a habit of successful postseason runs himself during his time at Ridge View. His Blazers won the Upper State championship on Saturday in what serves as South Carolina’s state semifinal, and will take on Lower State champion Fort Dorchester on Thursday in the Class 5A state title game. A win there would be Ridgeview’s fourth state championship in the past five seasons, adding to the three consecutive 4A crowns Stoneman’s teams won from 2018-20.

Ridge View won a little more than half of its games in the 11 seasons before Stoneman took over but the Blazers have a .723 winning percentage (115-44) in Stoneman’s six seasons there. This season Ridge View is a rather pedestrian 19-11, but with good reason. The Blazers stepped up their schedule to include prestigious tournaments in Las Vegas and New Orleans, plus playing some top-notch competition in a couple of Columbia-area tournaments.

The reasoning for the aggressive schedule was two-fold: greater exposure for his payers and preparation for the postseason. Obviously facing stiffer competition has paid off in terms of postseason preparedness. But it has been a benefit in the exposure aspect, too. With more eyes from more outlets on him, junior forward Gregory “G.G.” Jackson’s stock has skyrocketed from a ranking somewhere in the mid- to lower 20s to the No. 1 junior prospect in the nation. He can basically choose from any power program in the nation when it comes signing day. And teammates who may have otherwise been overlooked are now getting interest from smaller programs.

Stoneman said he’d be stupid not to discuss Jackson coming with him to OHA but that potentially distracting conversation will have to wait until after Ridge View’s season is completed.

Jackson’s status notwithstanding, Stoneman said Job 1 in Mouth of Wilson will be establishing a relationship with the three non-senior OHA players, including Duke signee Caleb Foster.

“Since I’ve known him, Coach Smith has never gone out and recruited players but times have changed,” Stoneman said. “My name is not Steve Smith, and there are 15 or 20 other schools just like Oak Hill now. They’re already reaching out to G.G., they’ve already reached out to Caleb Foster and all them, to try to get them to transfer…But if I can get a Caleb Foster to stay because it’s Oak Hill, and if G.G. comes here because he’s already played for me, well now I’ve got two top-10 kids on the team, which makes getting other players easier.”

The prep school landscape is getting more crowded by the year, but Oak Hill Academy has never stopped being a marquee name and has to be one of the most desirable jobs in high school coaching. And while there will always be arguments over what is the hardest thing to do in sports — hitting a perfect golf shot, squaring up a 100-mph tailing fastball, etc. — being the first coach in after the retirement of a living legend has to be in the conversation.

“I’m not walking in and saying it’s my way or the highway but the way I run practices may be different than how [Smith] is running practices now,” Stoneman said.

And yet:

“He’s going to be a resource for me, for many years to come,” said Stoneman. “What’s the best way to build a team? What’s the best way to travel? There’s a lot of travel involved, lot of scheduling involved, I’m sure there are going to be issues with players that are going to be different than what I have dealt with as a head coach in a public school as opposed to a private school. So a lot of my decision making, before I do make a decision I’m going to reach out to him and get his advice.

“He wants it to succeed. You can’t be willing to throw all those years out the window and not seek his advice.”

As far as uprooting his family — his wife, Chelsea, and the couple’s two adult daughters, both of whom are Galax H.S. graduates — from their home of the past six years, that may be the easiest aspect of the whole deal.

“Both of my daughters are moving back to Galax,” he said, “I’ll get Chelsea back close to her momma so I can do no wrong now in terms of family.”