Bonner Springs hands coaching reins to first-year assistants
Apparently, one year was all it took for Bonner Springs High School basketball assistant coaches Ryan Hull and Clay Oakes to impress their new school.
When BSHS was hit with back-to-back resignations from both of its varsity basketball coaches earlier this spring, the school wasted little time in looking to its first-year assistants to take over the reins.
"In hiring Ryan and Clay, I think we have a pretty good idea of what we're getting," BSHS athletic director Garold Baker said. "It's pretty unusual to hire to first-year assistants to take over programs, but I really think that says a lot about the quality of the guys we've hired. They have proven themselves and we believe they can get the job done."
Although the two proved themselves in similar ways during their first year at BSHS -- bringing fire, passion and enthusiasm, as well as high-level basketball knowledge -- it's Oakes who has proven himself throughout the years.
Prior to his arrival in Bonner Springs, Oakes racked up more than 10 years of head coaching experience in Western Kansas.
Initially, Oakes coached boys basketball. After he spent a few years as a high school assistant while still in college at Pittsburg State, he landed his first head-coaching job in 1992, at Fowler High School.
After Fowler, he moved over to Jetmore High, where he coached for five years and led the girls team to a second-place Class 1A finish in 2000.
The switch from coaching guys to girls came from necessity. At the time Oakes was looking for a job, Jetmore's girls' position was all that was open. So he took it, and has never looked back.
That decision has led him to where he is today, and Oakes is extremely excited about his future in Bonner Springs.
"This is a great situation," Oakes said. "For me to get this kind of opportunity with a program on the rise, I'm obviously very excited. And I plan on being here for quite a while."
The very day that Baker announced his resignation as the Bravettes' coach, the support for Oakes began to pile up. Current players, faculty members and even Baker put themselves in Oakes' corner.
That and the fact that he had an entire season to prove himself before his interview, made the process less stressful than it might have been otherwise.
"I was basically under the interview process for four months," Oakes said. "Even before I applied, everybody pretty much said they'd like to see me get it. That made the whole process a little easier. I know the personnel real well and I think I know what's going to fit for this program."
That's what Baker's banking on.
"With Clay, it was never really in question," Baker said. "Having worked with him for a year, it was clear that he was a heck of a basketball coach and I think he's going to do an excellent job for us for a long time."
Under Oakes the Bravettes will have the same look they've had for years under Baker, where pressure defense and constant motion on offense lead to easy buckets.
"Coach Baker and I have a lot of the same philosophies, so you're going to see some similar things," Oakes said. "But, of course, there will be a few things we change. My priority is going to be on having success in the league and getting to state. We came close last year and I think, with the girls we have coming back, if we work hard this summer and really get to work, we can take that next step."
On the boys side of things, Hull inherits a team that almost certainly will take a step backwards. But that fate has much more to do with the loss of five seniors and the level of success the previous team achieved than the arrival of a new head coach.
Hull, 27, finds himself in almost the exact same position as outgoing coach Andy Price did five years ago -- as a young, inexperienced coach in charge of a big-time program.
Although he's driven by the desire to match -- if not surpass -- the success his predecessor enjoyed, Hull is also anxious to shed the tag that will undoubtedly follow him for his first few seasons.
"I realize that there are going to be comparisons between me and Andy because I'm young like he was when he took over," Hull said. "That's definitely going to drive me. It's hard to argue with the success he had and his accomplishments should be the standard for me. But I hope that, if we're doing things the right way and playing well, people won't have to say 'that young coach is doing a good job,' they'll just say 'that coach is doing a good job.'"
Hull's very first moments as the new BSHS boys coach likely serve as a glimpse into his future. Moments after being told that he was the BSHS administration's choice for the job, Hull exploded with enthusiasm.
"I don't even think they finished the sentence before I said I'd take the job," he said with a laugh.
It's that kind of energy that led to Hull's hiring.
Unlike the situation with Oakes, which was pretty much decided before it even got started, Hull had to beat out some high-quality candidates. More than 20 applications crossed Baker's desk during the month-long process, and the school interviewed eight potential coaches before selecting Hull.
In the end, Hull's outstanding performance during his unofficial audition -- the 2005-2006 season -- carried a lot of weight.
"Ryan did a phenomenal job as an assistant," Baker said. "And he came highly recommended by Andy. I'm really excited to have him and I think he's going to do an excellent job. He got the job over some quality coaches."
Never known to be short on intensity, Hull's work began almost immediately. His first official duty as the new boys basketball coach at BSHS was to run the team's annual summer camp. The camp, which began Monday and will wrap up tomorrow, ushered in the new era of Braves basketball, and Hull said his style of coaching has been well-received by his players.
"We're going to make some changes," he said. "When you lose five seniors and three of them are post players, I think you have to make some changes. But we're also going to hold on to a lot of the things that Andy established."
At the top of that list is attitude. Hull said it's his goal to continue to emphasize attitude and character and that things of that nature will always be just as important to him as wins and losses.
"Our image is extremely important to me," Hull said. "It wouldn't hurt my feelings one bit if people didn't notice our attitudes because that would mean we're playing the right way."
In addition to saying all the right things and having one foot in the door, Hull indicated that his sincere desire to be in Bonner Springs went a long way with school officials.
"I have no desire to go anywhere else," he said. "I interviewed for a teaching position in Bonner Springs two years in a row because I wanted to be here. And now, with a coaching job, too, that pretty much locks me in. I can't wait for next season."