Archive for Wednesday, March 7, 2007

McBride a worthy candidate for ‘Coach of the Year’

Through new attitude, toughness and extraordinary poise, Bobcats coach led monumental turnaround

March 7, 2007

Basehor-Linwood Principle Steven Blankenship shouldn't have had it this easy.

After consecutive 2-19 seasons, the school was in search of a new boys basketball coach and received more than 30 applications. The quantity of inquiries allowed Blankenship and BLHS Athletic Director Joe Keeler to whittle the list down until they found the perfect candidate.

Today that coach is getting warranted attention for Coach of the Year honors in Class 4A. Mike McBride had already revived the basketball program at Licking, Mo., and wanted to turn around another moribund team when he accepted BLHS's offer.

"Mike stood out as being someone who had gone into a program and turned it around," Blankenship said. "That is what we were looking for. I would trust my kids with him. He came out heads and shoulders above everyone else."

In his third season at the helm, McBride led the Bobcats to a 17-5 record, including 13-0 in-conference, the first undefeated league mark in school history.

"He's just done a Coach of the Year-like performance in turning around this program," Blankenship said. "I can't imagine there being a better performance around the state. We went from last to first in three years. It's due to him."

Senior star Austin Knipp agrees that McBride deserves accolades.

"He did an excellent job," Knipp said. "He has taught us the same things the last three years, now it finally started clicking. I think that this is a great award that he could get, and I think he should get it."

McBride acknowledges and relishes the attention being heaped upon his program, but he doesn't yet seem entirely comfortable talking about the individual award.

"I am the same way with myself as I have been with the kids," McBride said. "Everybody says our team has no showboats, and everybody plays together, and we play great team ball, and so on. That is what I am here for.

"I am here for the kids, and I think the kids know that. We go through thick and thin. Some of them have problems at home; some of them have things going on at school. This is a time for us to get together and forget about that stuff, and that is more important than wins and losses."

McBride is quick to point out that this individual award could not be achieved singularly.

"Coach of the year? If I didn't have great kids, I wouldn't get Coach of the Year," McBride said. "It is that simple. It is all about the kids. I understand some of the things that I do are the reasons we win, but at the same time, if I didn't have 10 kids in there that didn't fight through the hard practices and the hard times, I wouldn't be where I am right now."

One of McBride's colleagues, Mill Valley coach Justin Bogart, agrees on the importance of players. The Jaguars coach has seen an exceptional coaching job first-hand, regardless.

"Mike will be the first to admit that you have to have players to win, and he has a strong group this year," Bogart said."However, the most significant aspect of his team this year is the poise they with which they play.In our second game against them, we played very well at home in the first half in front of a large crowd -- typically an unsettling environment -- but even when we took a brief lead, their players remained calm and workmanlike.

"They rallied from eight points down at Piper and put away the most talented team (in the league) by 12.These are the traits of a well-coached team -- one that is prepared and plays well together. They play tough defense and run excellent offense: two elements that develop over the course of a few years. It is obvious that Mike has his program right on track."

The Kaw Valley League does not award a Coach of the Year honor. McBride will be judged against every other coach in Class 4A.

"This guy needs some recognition," Blankenship said. "I've never had a coach that I have pushed for that, because I don't think I've ever seen a turnaround like this. He did a special job. This was a situation that he deserves as much recognition as he can get."

Blankenship said McBride's drive was among the main reasons he rose to the top of the heap three years ago.

"He has a passion about basketball," Blankenship said. "This guy lives and breathes basketball. His family comes first, but after that it is basketball. He has a desire to win and compete. The team fed off of that. Our kids just wouldn't quit this season, it was amazing."

Knipp believes it was McBride's ability to get the team to buy into his philosophies that turned the program around.

"The main thing is that he made us believe," Knipp said. "He has always told us to see the light at the end of the tunnel; I think we started seeing that. We just got immature against Baldwin."

Would the second-round 40-38 sub-state upset loss affect McBride's chances at the award?

"Yeah I probably needed to go another game," McBride said. "I don't know what the process is, though. I don't pay attention to it."

Despite the attention McBride has received, he will not pursue job openings elsewhere.

"I've enjoyed my stint with Basehor-Linwood and I plan on staying there, indefinitely," McBride said. "I came here with a challenge. I haven't achieved my goal yet, which is going to state. We have one more step to take. We are obviously very close. We're going to work harder as a coaching staff. People are excited. They know we can go now, it's just a matter of getting it done."

The athletic department isn't concerned with the interest McBride could garner.

"That is a good problem to have, when you have a coach worth being pursued," Blankenship said. "He's going to have people looking at him. He deserves that recognition."

Three years ago it would have been difficult for Steve Blankenship to envision making the perfect coaching hire and leading the Bobcats back to prominence. Class 4A Coach of the Year honors would be a fitting conclusion to a magical season.

"Mike's passion for coaching basketball is second to none," Blankenship said. "You won't find someone that cares more about the kids. You hear about kids that will run through a wall for their coach. I really think our kids would for Mike."

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