By Chris Chaney
Three Clermont County boys’ basketball coaches were tasked with rejuvenating varsity programs in 2013-14 — Darnell Parker at Clermont Northeastern, Bobby Sandker at Felicity-Franklin and Reggie Hall at Bethel-Tate — and while each has seen steps in the right direction, program-building is an exercise in patience and perseverance.
All three first-year head coaches tried to implement varying degrees of an up-tempo style of play with mixed results. A combined 10 wins between the three schools this past season gives credence to the patience and perseverance mantra that all three are preaching, but an eye toward the future is keeping the trio positive.
“In the short term, it’s a process,” Hall said. “We’re going to continue to work our tails off and now we have a lot of guys who are starting to build something. I’m really excited about the future. I love building programs. I didn’t enjoy the losing part, but I enjoy the basketball as a whole. This gives us perspective.”
Parker, who inherited a program at CNE that featured a strong senior presence, was able to get his guys excited about the change and, along with those senior leaders, begin to change the culture even as the fruits of their labor were not immediately evident.
“I’m excited for what we have coming back (next season) and they’ll have a year under their belts that we can build on what we’ve started,” Parker said. “Losing (the seniors) will be tough, but we have three starters that will lead us into next year, led by Darian Bullock. What we need to do as a team to turn the next page to take on a new identity and we’re going to groom those younger JV players and hit the ground running this spring.”
All three coaches stressed the importance of making a year-round commitment to their programs, something that may have been missing in years past. Getting back into the gym following the mandated dead period to keep the progress going is paramount to laying the groundwork needed to bring these programs back to prominence.
“I’m expecting participation over the summer,” Sandker said. “If we have that, you’ll see a different team (next year). You want to demand (that commitment) as a coach, but it’s something you can’t make mandatory. We’ll have things going on over the summer and if we get the participation we should, then I expect big things next year.”
Sandker also stressed the importance of a strong program from top to bottom, from varsity to elementary school teams. Sandker said that Felicity is reviving their pee-wee system and saw some growth over the past year that he believes will positively influence the high school program down the road.
Similarly over at Bethel-Tate, Hall was bullish about the up-and-coming talent he has in the program that will continue to improve with more experience playing at the varsity level.
“The epiphany came after game seven or eight where instead of chasing wins, we decided we’re going to try and build a program,” Hall explained. “I’m not going to try to play just to get some wins that season and hope to get a great class or something like that. We tried to build something with some of our younger guys so that there’s a chance we can build something special.”
Parker was in a similar situation with more than three-quarters of his team gaining experience that would return in the blue and yellow next season.
“This group we have coming back is going to be a little meaner, a little more nasty and we’re excited about that,” he said. “These guys are ready to get back in the gym and into the weight room. As we get into the summer, we’ll use our days to hone our offense and defense and create an identity.”
Each of the three coaches have the passion and vision needed to build a successful program and with the trickle down effect they are preaching, all three programs should be on the rise over the next few years.