NEW MANCHESTER - Dave Smith, the new Oak Glen boys' basketball coach, believes that developing a cohesive team attitude along with a winning attitude is as important in this, his first year back at the helm is as important as the victories and losses.
Smith was successful in doing that in his first stint as Oak Glen basketball coach, so much so that his 2003-04 team went to the state Class AA tournament undefeated, but went down in its first game in Charleston. The Golden Bears finished 24-1 that season.
Smith got the head coaching job at his alma mater at a young age in 1994 and after the first couple of seasons matured into the job and found out what he feels is the important ingredient to foster a winning attitude.
Smith was hired to take over the Oak Glen boys basketball program when veteran coach Vince Gilliam retired. The Golden Bears finished with a 2-20 record last year.
Lost from that team through graduation is Jeff Hissam, Tanner Crago, Hunter Montero and Brandon Markham.
That leaves lettermen Cody Howell, Taylor Kincaid, Matt McLaughlin and David McGraw as returnees for Smith to build around. All have starting experience.
Howell, Kincaid and McLaughlin are seniors while McGraw is a junior.
Smith said the remainder of his varsity squad will consist of senior Trey Smith, the coach's son, Jakob Ford and Kyle Woodruff, both juniors and sophomores Tyler Click and Brian Congo.
The Golden Bears will have a formative front line with the 6-foot-5 Kincaid, McGraw at 6-4 and Howell at 6-3. The 5-11 McLaughlin is the Golden Bears' returning starter at point guard and is the only backcourt player with experience.
"Matt is a great leader and will be a good role model for the kids to follow," Smith said.
"This group of kids have gone through their entire high school careers without a winning record. The coaching staff has been fighting an uphill battle to develop a winning attitude in practice, but we're getting there. We want to translate that into games.''
''If we do that, then we've made progress. Yes, it feels like a rebuild, but I think we'll be competitive.''
Smith said he has been impressed with the play of all nine that are competing at the varsity level.
Junior Kyle Woodruff (6-2) has caught Smith's eye despite it being his first year out for basketball.
Smith said he's also impressed with the play of his two sophomores, Tyler Click (6-0) and Brian Congo (6-1).