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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Highlands Boys Hoops Head Coaching Job Still Good One

G. Michael Graham
Even though the Highlands Bluebirds boys basketball team has not been a region contender in a while, it is still important in Fort Thomas.

That’s evidenced by the numerous posts about the open head coaching position on Bluegrass Preps. You can’t believe everything you read on that web site. But it can give you some good information.

Some wonder if basketball can also be successful at a tradition-rich football high school. I don’t see why not. It has before.

Thus, this is my two cents on the matter. Keep in mind this is just one opinion and I do not have the expertise that those involved in hiring the next head coach do.

I first want to say that I feel veteran Head Coach Mike Flynn and his assistants gave it everything they had. Things just did not work out so Flynn resigned in March.

The Bluebirds finished 50-61 in Flynn’s four-year tenure with appearances in the 9th Region Tournament in 2011 and 2012. They lost to Dixie Heights in the regional quarterfinals in 2011 and Lloyd Memorial the following year in the same round.

Highlands has not won a region game since 2009 and not won a 36th District championship since 2008. The Bluebirds once dominated the 9th Region having won 12 championships including four in a five-year span between 1997 and 2001 led by the likes of Derek Smith, Jared Lorenzen and Ross Neltner.

“Anytime there’s a coaching change in any sport, it is an exciting time. It is a time when you have the opportunity to make a substantial step forward,” said Dale Mueller, Highlands Director of Athletics. “We’re looking for ways for our guys to have a good experience and battle for region and state championships on a regular basis. We have guys in Fort Thomas that love playing basketball.”

To see potential candidates...

There are a number of reasons why this job is still a good one. The first one has to do with numbers.

Highlands has about 800 students. If 400 happen to be boys, they don’t all play football so surely there are some athletes who can put an emphasis on working on their basketball skills year-round. I’ve been told that previously successful teams had that one good non-football player surrounded by football players.

Mueller said the school system is working with the city of Fort Thomas to develop more youth basketball leagues. If you get someone started young, a lot of good things can happen.

Take a look at the Highlands girls basketball team. Freshman Brianna Adler started playing basketball at a young age. Now she has one of the prettiest shots in the 9th Region.

The new head coach does have some talent to work with. Sophomore Parker Harris showed some promise last year. Returning starters Drew Houliston and Nick True also give the Bluebirds something to build on.

The main thing Highlands needs to do is improve its shooting. Highlands hit 478-of-1,283 shots for 37 percent, including 100-of-345 from three-point range for 29 percent.

I’m sure the academic success at Highlands has drawn some good applicants. I’ve been told at least 25 people have applied for the job.

The decision-makers need to decide whether to promote one of the assistants or start over fresh. I’ve seen things work out or not work out in either situation.

With that in mind, here are some of my top candidates for the job provided they’ve applied. This is not in any particular order and again comes with limited knowledge.

1. Josh Feldmann – Feldmann has had a lot of success with the Bishop Brossart Lady Mustangs. He served as Junior Varsity Head Coach at Highlands from 2004 to 2010 and teaches at Johnson Elementary School in Fort Thomas.

2. Steve Hunt – Current Highlands Assistant and former player. He already knows the players.

3. Beau Menefee – His background is similar to Hunt. He served as Freshman Coach last year and is a former player. He is also a familiar face to the players.

4. Erik Goetz – He just left the job at Covington Holy Cross. Goetz led the Indians to the All “A” State championship in 2012 but had a hard time getting out of the 35th District loaded with other powers in Covington in Covington Catholic and Holmes.

5. Brett Blevins – He is currently the Junior Varsity Coach at Cooper. He has helped the young Jaguar program quickly evolve into a region contender.

I don’t know if any of the coaches of any current 9th Region contenders have applied such as Tim Sullivan at Cooper. But if they have, they also deserve a hard look.
All in all, the community support is there and that’s also a big reason why this job is still attractive. Everyone working together is what is needed to turn things around. A new head coach can’t turn things around alone.

G. Michael Graham has been covering school sports for various media outlets since November, 1994 along with some experience covering college sports. He’s worked for outlets in Alabama, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas.

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