Familiar Face Back at Helm for Tyler Boys
By TRACY WATSON
KIDWELL — It’s “Back to the Future” for the Tyler Consolidated boys’ basketball program as the Silver Knights welcome back former, ultra-successful coach Rick Leach.
Leach was the coach at Tyler Consolidated between 1994-2008, a stretch in which the Knights captured eight sectional titles, four regional titles and made a trip to the state final four. Since then, Leach has been the athletics director at Parkersburg South High School for the last 10 years.
“Honestly, I probably left coaching too early,” Leach said. “And I still have the bug. I joked with our AD that I had all the answers doing that job, now I have to back-it up on the sidelines.
“When I talked about coming back I wanted to get to know all of the kids and one of the biggest things I got to know was that why I didn’t know a lot about them, I had coached a lot of their dads and uncles.”
The Silver Knights will be a senior-dominated team with eight on a roster that includes 12 players. A pair of those seniors are returning starters in 5-foot-9 guard Dylan Roberts, a three-year starter. The other is 6-foot forward Nate Lancaster.
Junior Griffin, the quarterback on the football team, returns as a 6-2 guard while 6-4 sophomore center Tyler West was a part-time starter a season ago. Mark Rucker, a 6-2 guard-forward, sophomore will be the fifth starter, a kid that Leach calls a “stud and very athletic.”
Sophomore Gage Huffman (6-1, guard) will see playing time along with 6-3 senior forward Steven Ross. Others off the bench include seniors Kyle Mason (5-10, guard), Luke Daugherty (6-1, forward), Mark Wilson (5-9, guard), Colby Buchanan (5-9, guard) and Adam Efaw (6-2, forward).
Assisting Leach will be a pair of former players in D.J. Cunningham and Robby Jones, both who have been in the system the last two years.
“If the kids let me, I will have a roster with a nine-man rotation, but if they are not good with that or it doesn’t work I can play with six also,” Leach said. “The summer allowed me to do some evaluations in getting to my “just start over philosophy.”
“I can see that we have athletes, which is something Tyler Consolidated has always had. But in my 13 years as head coach here, I had maybe four actual basketball players and the rest were just athletes. There is no question that I know we can succeed with athletes.”
Leach also knows that the key to winning is trying to install a winning attitude in the program.
“While there have been plenty of athletes, it has still been 11 years since the last winning season here. You have to have players to win, but you also have to have a winning attitude. These kids are doing the right things, but it hasn’t been pretty for a while.
“I watched them play about five times lasts year, and honestly, I wasn’t very happy with what I saw. I felt like they should have won five or six more games than they did. But these kids are coachable and I think the positive attitudes are coming along.
“The biggest thing is that as a player, you have to hate losing more than you like winning. I think they have gotten a little complacent here and have become used to losing and that mindset has to change.
“In past history I like to run programs where the kids play and fight as a team, with no super-stars. I don’t need a 30-point scorer to be successful, I would rather have five or six double-figure scorers at about 13-14 apiece.”
Leach’s second tenure in Kidwell will begin with trips to Valley and Cameron to open the season, and four of their first five games on the road.
“Our first meeting we set some goals, and of course the first one is easy and that is a state championship,” Leach said. “And the biggest thing we have to do to have a shot to get to that point is play well against the teams in our section and region. That makes those first two games very important.
“It all starts with giving yourself an opportunity to get out of the sectional and moving forward. You have to set goals early on, but then you have to reset them as you go along.
“Our schedule is a tough one for Class A, but I have played tougher schedules with a lot of bigger schools. I didn’t have anything to do with making it, but we will go out and play it and do our best. Playing some good Class A competition will allow us gauge where we are.”