By Maurice Patton
As high school basketball practices officially began Monday across Tennessee, a couple of first-year coaches – Zion Christian’s Shaun Odom and Derek Boyd — agreed on the priority for their teams.
“One thing is the culture,” said Odom, who becomes the Lady Eagles’ third coach in as many seasons. “It seems that at some point, everybody’s just set with the way things are.
“My thing with the girls is, let’s forget about everything that’s happened in the past, let’s look toward building up the future. Everything starts with them.”
Boyd, who succeeds Tommy Fox as both athletics director and boys basketball coach after spending the majority of his coaching career at Mt. Pleasant, echoed Odom’s focal point.
“I think it’s going to be about trying to build a culture that we’re going to fight, keep clawing and keep going until the last horn goes,” he said. “We’re going to establish a culture to work as hard as we can and get better every day, and hope that’s good enough to get us over the hump.”
Competing in the same Division II-A District 3 with established programs such as Battle Ground Academy, Christ Presbyterian Academy, Franklin Road Academy and crosstown foe Columbia Academy – the boys two years removed from a state title – both Zion programs recognize they have an uphill climb that starts this week.
“I took it as a challenge,” Odom said. “The girls are excited for the season. I’m here to help them get better, I’m here behind them to help them be the best they can be. I’m a fundamental coach; that’ll be my main focus, working on fundamentals and looking to build from there.
“That’s the challenge I love, the challenge I’m willing to face head on. They want to learn, they want to get better, put the past in the past and leave it there. I want to help them get better and we’re going to shock some people.”
Both squads sustained significant losses from last season – the boys graduating Briggs Rutter, who fell just short of 2,000 career points before moving on to pursue a collegiate baseball career at Middle Tennessee State.
“It’s an excitement like no other when you get to get back out on the floor, especially that first day,” Boyd said. “The thing that might keep you from being real excited is most of the time you don’t have everybody. I’ve always allowed my football guys to have some days off. I’ve always thought that was important at a small school. They just need that time to rest and be away for a little bit.
“(For us) a lot of those will be the key guys, that have played. There’s some pieces, but we probably play in the toughest district there is.”