Should his team fade down the season's final stretch, flop in the opening round of the Class 6A, District 11 tournament and blow two tires on the ride home, Armwood's Jeff Pafunda already has warranted considerable coach of the year chatter.
The Hawks, 1-48 over the previous two seasons, were 11-8 entering Monday night's game at Newsome. They have defeated a 17-3 Wesley Chapel team, lost by only one to district leader Sickles, and will finish third in the 6A-11 standings.
And if the roster is any sign, they've rebuilt the old-fashioned way -- from within. Nine of the 11 players on the current roster played for the 0-24 team last season.
"Really, we're pretty much the same team from last year, along with a couple of guys who moved up from JV," said Pafunda, a former Hawks girls coach in his fifth season with the boys.
"That's really the good part about it; we're doing it with the same guys. They pretty much improved their attitude and we got rid of a couple of guys with bad attitudes. It's a much better team atmosphere this year."
Perhaps no player is more reflective of the Hawks' transformation than sophomore PG Juwuan King. A starter last season, when Armwood found itself in the unforgiving 5A-8 district, King committed more than 100 turnovers. This year, his assist-turnover ratio (53 assists, 64 turnovers) is nearly even.
In Friday's 59-56 triumph against King, Armwood's third win against the Lions this year, Juwuan King scored 20.
"Their skill level has gotten better," said Durant coach Trent Tice, whose team fell by five to the Hawks in December. "They had a lot of young guys last year. Getting a lot of those young guys back again (has helped)."