The local 2008-09 boys basketball season may not be one for the ages, but it certainly has been one for the ageless. Four North Suncoast teams (Bishop McLaughlin, Mitchell, Zephyrhills and, to a lesser degree, River Ridge) are enjoying a mini-resurgence behind coaches 60 or older (though Bishop McLaughlin coach Greg O'Connell resigned Jan. 2). "You don't get older, you get better," River Ridge coach John Sedlack said with a chuckle. Is Sedlack right, or is this mere chronological coincidence? It's worth a closer look.
Larry Holden, Mitchell
In his younger days: Holden compiled 376 wins in a 24-year prep coaching career in Ohio, earning induction into that state's basketball hall of fame in 2005.
Why he might be feeling young again: After consecutive six-win seasons, Holden's third Mustangs team is 11-5. Holden credits improved defense (11 opponents have been held to fewer than 50 points) and, at long last, some offensive proficiency. "Not only are we now getting good shots," he said, "we're knocking them down, which we weren't able to do the first couple of years."
Pondered re-retirement when …: "There's probably a lot of moments," Holden said. "I think that all the success that we enjoyed up north and coming down here and experiencing what I did, I really wasn't ready for that. I thought that we could take this program and it's taken us three years to build it into being able to get it over the hump. We were very competitive our first two years but it didn't equate to wins."
A sign that he's old-school: "I'm a yeller," Holden said. "I think I'm very difficult to play for because I demand a lot, I challenge a lot. … I hope my kids, five years from now, look back and value me trying to challenge them to be better every day."
On relating to today's players: "I think it's very hard for a coach to change his style. … We have 26 or 27 kids that we deal with. I can't change my personality for every player. Players have to adjust. You have a boss; your boss can't adjust their personality to every employee under them."
John Sedlack, River Ridge
In his younger days: An area coaching fixture for more than a quarter-century, Sedlack won more than 250 games in 18 seasons at Central before arriving at River Ridge in 2006. He also coached at Crystal River and Land O'Lakes.
Why he might be feeling young again: The Knights, who played sub-.500 ball in Sedlack's first two seasons, are 9-8 with a quality win over Nature Coast and a two-point loss to Hudson. With eight games remaining, a winning season is conceivable.
A sign that he's old-school: To this day, Sedlack still washes his players' practice and game uniforms. "I'm kind of archaic," he said. "I am a dinosaur."
On relating to today's players: "You know, the world's a changed place. Just think of the Internet, cell phones, think of that. I carry a saying in my wallet that I got from a fortune cookie 20 or so years ago that says, 'Your principles mean more to you than anything.' I'm that kind of a guy. I think my players know it and my parents know it."
Alan Reed, Zephyrhills
In his younger days: Reed amassed 116 wins in two previous stints with the Bulldogs (1975-79, '81-86), winning a district title and upsetting then-No. 1 Clearwater Central Catholic in '77.
Why he might be feeling young again: Considering where Zephyrhills' program was before Reed returned in 2006, the job he has done in three years is astounding. In the six seasons before he was rehired, Zephyrhills won a total of 19 games. Last year's team finished 16-10 and this year's club is 8-7.
pondered re-retirement when...: "There's been a few times," Reed said. "When you're old and stuck in your ways like we are, yeah, there's times that's come across."
A sign that he's old-school: Like Sedlack, Reed and his staff wash the uniforms, and keep everything — uniforms, equipment, even shoes — in the locker room. "Our kids don't take anything home," he said.
On relating to today's players: "I think the biggest thing is you have to listen a little more. Thirty years ago you said, 'This is it and that's the way it's going to be.' You still do that to some extent. … but I think you've got to sit back and listen a little more. I think kids still are willing to accept things and do things the right way, but they're involved in so much more stuff now. I think you have to take that into consideration."