Inside the Newsroom

News, commentary, insight on local happenings and fun from the staff of The Saline Reporter and Milan News-Leader.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Coaching ch-ch-ch-changes

It's the dead middle of summer, traditionally the slowest time of the year for sports news (fun fact: the days before and after the MLB All-Star Game are the only two of the entire year when none of the four major American professional sports leagues--MLB, the NFL, NBA, and NHL--have a single game scheduled). But I'd like to think we had some big stories in this week's edition: Saline lacrosse coach John Phillips stepped down, we reported the hiring of Jeff Davis to coach the Milan girls' basketball varsity, and new Saline boys' basketball head coach Mike Brown talked about the summer's role in the team's adjustment period.

Because the article reporting Phillips's resignation also covered the post-season awards earned by the Saline lacrosse team following its 19-1 dream season--a topic I'm sure John would want front-and-center--I wasn't able to include in the newspaper an important piece of information I had on his decision: namely, that Phillips isn't about to just leave the program he helped build from scratch in his wake. His current plans include running a series of summer clinics for young lacrosse players in Saline, generating ideas for and possibly overseeing new fund raisers to help the program, and and helping in the continuing development of the middle school program.

In other words, Phillips will still be playing a major role in building a deeper, better Saline lacrosse team. That role just won't be "head coach." As noted in today's article, Phillips is taking on this new role in order to spend more time supporting and cheering on his kids (including Claire, a standout defender for the Saline girls' soccer team) and we at the Reporter wish him the best of luck.

On the surface, Davis and Brown are taking on similarly difficult projects. The Milan girls won four games last year, the Saline boys five. Both will enter their 2007-2008 season with heavy graduation losses. The Hornets lost seven lettermen from last season's 12-man opening-game roster; the Big Reds lost only two, but those two were leading scorer and rebounder Nicole Greer and starting point guard Chelsey Green.

But looking past the surface, Davis has a much taller ladder to climb. When previous Saline head coach Terry Breneman resigned in March (like Phillips, to spend more time with his college-age kids), he left behind a program with many more winning seasons than losing, a program that had reached the 15-win plateau in both 2005 and 2006. The 2007 record was much more an aberration (brought about, in large part, by a spate of unfortunate injuries and suspensions) of Breneman's outstanding 13-year tenure than the norm.

The Milan girls, however, last had a winning season in I-don't-know-when. Literally, I don't know when. But the winning record posted by the boys last season was the first in at least six years, and my guess is that it's been longer than that for the Big Red girls. (If I'm wrong, anybody out there who knows, feel free to correct me.)

There's no question that both programs have loads of potential (both JV squads posted much better records than their varsity counterparts), or, from my end at least, that both these coaches have the intelligence and guile to tap into it. But I also don't think there would be much question that it will be easier to get a program back in the habit of winning -- as Brown will seek to do -- than to make it one for the first time.

(Thanks to David Bowie for the post title, by the way.)

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