Their teams have stumbled out to a combined start of 1-11, and they won’t get a chance to improve that record until early January.
Tough luck to be sure for first-year Lawrence High boys basketball coach Mike Lewis and first-year LHS girls coach Nick Wood. But while their record in the win-loss column isn’t what either had hoped for, both said they were pleased with the way things had gone during the opening weeks of the season.
“Obviously, we’d like to have a couple more wins,” Wood said. “But that will come. And I think the girls know that. We talk all the time about how these games in December don’t matter. It’s what you do in March that counts.”
For the LHS girls, particularly this bunch, those words carry serious weight. After all, the core of this year’s team — seniors Haley Parker, Cassie Potter and Jasmyn Turner — were key contributors to the Lions’ 2008 state championship run, and all three provide a wealth of experience on which to draw going forward.
It’s funny, but for all the ways Lewis and Wood are different — coaching styles, hairstyles and experience — their first seasons in charge of their programs have been remarkably similar.
For starters, both have faced a nasty stretch of competition to open the season. Road games at Washburn Rural, tough tournament draws and the pre-holiday-break battle with crosstown rival Free State highlighted the early portion of the schedule.
Both remained positive during the tough stretch.
“That helps a lot,” LHS senior Marcus Ray said of Lewis. “He just encourages us to stay positive and not get down on ourselves, which isn’t something a lot of coaches would do.”
Parker, a captain for the girls team, said one of Wood’s best assets is his ability to remain upbeat in the face of adversity.
“He encourages us all, and we believe him,” Parker said. “He’s pretty convincing.”
Both Wood and Lewis — as well as most members of their teams — said the Kansas State High School Activities Association’s rule change last summer, which allowed coaches to have more contact with their athletes, helped speed up the transition from former LHS coaches Chris Davis (boys) and Kristin Mallory to the new regimes.
“We’ve been working with him since the summer, so we’re used to him,” Parker said. “He relates really well to all of the girls as individuals instead of just treating us all as a big group. The important thing is we’re always getting better. After every practice and every game, we walk away knowing that we’re getting better. And that helps us believe in what coach is saying.”
Although Lewis inherited just two players with varsity experience — Ray and senior Drake DeBiasse — the same has held true for the LHS boys. After suffering double-digit losses in the first couple of games of the season, the Lions turned in two of their best efforts just before break.
“The record says that we haven’t won yet,” Ray said. “It says 0-6. But we feel good about it, and we know we’re headed in the right direction. The intensity’s a little different (than it was with Davis), but it’s clear that (Lewis) is in charge. This is his program now. We feel good about things, but it’ll feel a lot better once we get that first win.”
Added Lewis: “There’s definitely a great sense of pride. I really felt it when we were playing at Shawnee Mission Northwest (Dec. 18). It’s a huge challenge, and there’s a lot of pride that goes along with it. I don’t think you can really understand that until you’re in the thick of it and have a few weeks of the season under your belt.”
Lewis’ boys and Wood’s girls will practice all of this week and will return to game action Jan. 8 at Olathe North.