Tigers Add Three Coaches to Staff
By Will Johnson
LATEXO – With the 2019-2020 school year less than three weeks away, most of the coaching positions have been filled by area school districts. The new school year will bring a ton of new faces to the Houston County area and Latexo ISD is no different.
The Tigers added three new coaches to their staff over the summer with a variety of knowledge and experience and on Monday, July 29, the coaches sat down with The Messenger to provide a little insight into what they bring to Latexo and what they hope to accomplish.
Aaron Allen will take over as the Tigers’ head basketball and head baseball coach. He was previously at Westwood and is a graduate of Sam Houston State University.
Vicki Bennett, also an SHSU alum, will be making a return to the sidelines as the Lady Tigers’ assistant basketball coach. She previously coached at Crockett and taught at Latexo before going into the healthcare profession.
Kevin Hurley, who recently retired from the coaching profession after 27 years, will work as the assistant basketball coach, head golf coach and also as a junior high coach.
A graduate from Stephen F. Austin State University, Hurley was asked if he would be able to function with all the Bearkats nipping at his heels.
“I’m alone it appears,” he said with a laugh. “I’m going to try and keep my mouth shut. As long as I don’t have to wear that orange I’m okay.”
Also on hand was Athletic Coordinator/Director Jessica Cutshall who said she would continue as the cross country and track coach.
Cutshall added Katie Brown, now in her third year at Latexo, would return as the Lady Tigers’ head volleyball coach and head girls’ basketball coach.
While the cross country program has been very successful in recent years, Cutshall said she expects this year to be a “transition year,” but still feels several of the runners will qualify for regionals, and with a little luck, even the state meet.
Moving into the fall/winter sports, the Tigers new head basketball coach was asked how he planned to establish a winning culture in Latexo.
“It all starts with building relationships. You need positive leadership. You have to get to know the kids and get them to trust you before they will play hard for you. It is a big task. I’ve been holding an open gym and weight room since the start of July to try and start building relationships with the guys,” Allen said.
Bennett, who played a year at SHSU under legendary basketball coach Jody Conradt, was asked the same question.
“I think I have a little bit of an advantage because most of the parents know me and know what I stand for. I’m going to work on their skills and build on those. I’m all about defense, discipline, ethics and I’m a strong leader,” she said.
The AD added, “I do feel like if there is going to be a time for a change – this will be the start of my seventh year here. I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve had good kids who came into the program who made me look good. If there is a time to come in and make a change, I feel like the time is now.”
Cutshall explained the group of seventh and eighth graders coming up through the ranks were not only good athletes but also had positive attitudes.
“They also have a good work ethic. Since I’ve been here, I haven’t seen that a whole lot. I’ve seen it on my end, but I haven’t seen it put forth on every sport that they play. I’m hoping if we can keep them all together and maintain a positive attitude, it will make a change of the successes of other programs,” she said.
Bennett chuckled and said, “Some of the players I’ll be coaching here, I coached their mothers. I hate to say that, but it’s true.”
As the discussion with the coaches continued, Hurley was asked what he thought might be the single most important thing in establishing a winning tradition.
“Trust. There has to be a trust and relationship built with the players. They have to have the belief that you will stick with them. They have to know that you’re a part of every win or loss. It can’t be ‘Let’s blame it on the kids.’ It takes hard work,” he said.
The lone Lumberjack in the room said he was a defensive coach first when it came to basketball.
“I don’t believe there is a one size fits all on offense. I’ve had teams that could run and we ran. I had teams that had to walk it up and we walked it up. Your philosophy has to fit what you have, both offense and defense. I teach man (defense) – but zone – I’ve had to use it to win some ball games because we simply couldn’t maintain that pressure,” Hurley said.
“It’s a liquid deal,” Hurley said. “You have to adapt your philosophy to fit the situation. It’s going to change from year to year depending on who you have and who you’re playing. In the end, if a kid’s willing to work hard, it takes no talent to play defense. It takes desire and hard work. My magic number is 50. If you can hold the other team below 50, you don’t have to make nearly as many shots.”
The coaches were asked what it took in today’s world to motivate students to come out and participate.
Hurley said, “It has to be a likable product. I’m a disciplinarian but I also understand I can run someone off in the first four days. I’ve had this happen in the last 10 years. When I was first coaching, motivation wasn’t the issue, it was teaching them the game. Now, they have phones, X-Boxes, Play Stations and lots of different forms of entertainment. Sports was our entertainment. I had a couple of players, about the first two weeks in, said they wanted to quit. I looked down and told them the last day to quit was last Friday. You can’t take the Bear Bryant approach to coaching anything with kids. You have to make it attractive. There are things you have to do to make them want to do it.”
Allen added, “You have to a lot more love than you used to when you were coaching. You still have to have discipline and guidelines, but you don’t have to be that coach that is always screaming for no reason.”
Cutshall said when she first got to Latexo, she saw the attitude as kids won’t come out for a sport because it wasn’t winning.
“When I first came here, I think I would have said that. I would have added it’s because we can’t keep coaches here. The first few years I was here, we would just rotate ‘em out. Some people would say, ‘They run for Coach Cutshall because she believes in them. That’s true. But I also believe the culture here is different,” she said.
It’s the small things, Hurley said. When the athletes set realistic goals and attain them, they can move on to bigger goals. Before long, the athlete has accomplished something they would have never believed.
“We are making changes to try and change the culture,” the AD explained. “We have set up things at the elementary to try and get the elementary kids more involved. We are going to have a pepe rally the first week of school and try to get everyone pumped up. We’ve added a lot of things this year in the hopes of getting more kids supporting the athletes, even if they don’t play. We’re making a lot of changes. We have a lot of new staff members. I’m excited about that.”
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.