The idea of coaching high school basketball for the first time is enough to get Ashley Battles excited.
The opportunity to do so in Lawrence, a city some consider to be the birthplace of the sport, is enough to provoke exuberance.
“The whole idea of coaching high school basketball in the city of Lawrence, it blows my mind,” said Battles, who was named Tuesday as Bishop Seabury’s new boys basketball coach. “I’ve had situations come up in Kansas City, different opportunities, and none of them just blew my mind. Just the idea of coaching in that sacred town is what did it for me.”
What immediately jumps out about Battles — he replaces Mike Harding, who split ways with the program somewhat controversially following two successful seasons as the Seahawks’ coach — is his experience with the game.
A former member of the Kansas University JV team, Battles has served as 15-under coach and guard-skills-development coach for Kansas City’s Pump N Run AAU program, the alums of which include current Kansas players Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar, Travis Releford and Conner Teahan, as well as Missouri players Marcus Denmon and Michael Dixon.
In addition, Battles has worked as the gym head for the Kansas University basketball camp since 1995 and has observed, by his estimation, a combined 100 KU men’s basketball practices over the years. Since 2005, he also has served as the boys and girls coach at Blue Valley Harmon Middle School.
A self-described basketball junkie, Battles has supplemented his day job as owner of a Farmers Insurance Agency in Lenexa with various basketball-related work, spending much of his free time poring over various coaching books and DVDs.
“Once the DVR came out, that’s basically (all) I do,” he said. “It’s almost pathetic to a point, but I really like watching how other people succeed, and, to be honest with you, how they fail.”
His vision for Seabury includes developing the program into a local basketball power, and doing so, he says, will require building the program’s junior high and junior varsity programs up over time.
“In order to really make this thing work, we’ve got to take care of the junior high level, the junior varsity level and the varsity level,” Battles said. “If I ignore the other areas, then it won’t be able to sustain itself.”
Perhaps his greatest asset, however, will be what appears to be a vast set of connections within the sport. Already, Battles has helped set outgoing senior Bill Gibbs up with coaches from the University of Dallas, a Div. III school in Texas, and he hopes his relationships throughout the coaching world will allow him to provide similar opportunities to other players coming through Seabury.
Mostly, though, he’s looking forward to digging in and getting started with his new venture.
“You have no idea how excited I am,” he said. “The end of May, we are going to start (practicing). We’re going to do everything that the Kansas State High School Activities Association will let us do, and we’re going to go at it hard, learn how to play the Seabury way.