New FSHS coach ‘excited’ by opportunity

Free State High didn’t have to search far to find its next head boys basketball coach.

The Firebirds announced they hired Sam Stroh on Saturday. Stroh coached for the past two seasons at Shawnee Heights, leading the Thunderbirds to a 36-9 record and a trip to the Class 5A state quarterfinals in March.

Stroh moved to Lawrence two years ago and lives a short drive away from Free State. He informed his former Shawnee Heights players on Friday that he was taking the Free State job.

“This is an opportunity that might not come around ever again,” said Stroh, who will also teach social studies at Free State. “The more and more I looked into it and talked with some friends and coaches and family members, it was something that we went for, and we’re happy, and we’re excited.”

Stroh replaces Chuck Law, who announced his resignation on March 9 after coaching the Firebirds for nine seasons.

Before coaching at Shawnee Heights, Stroh was a junior-varsity coach at Blue Valley North for six years. He has also been an assistant at Page High in Arizona and at Lincoln Southeast in Nebraska after graduating from the University of Nebraska.

“We’re thrilled to have Sam join the Free State family and be our next head basketball coach,” FSHS athletic director Mike Hill said. “We were thrilled with the number of high-level applicants we had, and to have Sam emerge from them is a credit to him.

“He’s had a success at a school that’s very similar to Free State demographically, and that was important for us to consider. He laid out a strong vision for where he wants to take the program, and we were impressed with that.”

Stroh, a native of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, said he was going to try to meet with Free State players and parents in the next week or two. One of the things that drew him to the job was seeing kids playing basketball outside and at the Sports Pavilion Lawrence all of the time.

“I think the access to basketball and the enthusiasm for the sport here in this city is unmatched, not only in the maybe the state of Kansas, but maybe the country,” Stroh said. “So I think it’s a great opportunity to build on that. We’ll see what we can do with it.”

At Shawnee Heights, Stroh ran an up-tempo offense with a lot of ball screens and primarily a man-to-man defense. He said he’ll adjust to the personnel at Free State, but he’s looking forward to competing in the Sunflower League.

“Coach Law has done a great job of building a great foundation,” Stroh said. “I think the big thing is to try to win the league. I think it’s one of the better leagues in the state, and I think I’m excited for that challenge and to get back in the Kansas City area.”