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Man in charge of the Chiefs

Debra Aplin chuckles when she thinks about some of the things her husband, Chamberlain coach Doug Aplin, has done during games to get his players' attention.

"He used to kick the bench a lot," she said. "Even now, when he thinks they're not listening, instead of sitting next to them he'll move up two or three rows into stands."

And this, she insists, is the kinder, gentler Doug Aplin. "He's really calmed down," she said.

At Chamberlain, Aplin is an institution. Now in his 28th season with Chamberlain (his career record is unknown because he hasn't kept track of it), the school at which he once was a star, Aplin has the Chiefs headed to their third final four under his direction.

"It has been a great ride," Aplin said Monday, just minutes after practice. "I've coached a lot of great players."

As a young coach, Aplin, a former USF standout, attended the state final four every year, each time thinking to himself, "Wow, what's that like?"

He found out in 1989.

That spring, the Chiefs reached the program's first final four before bowing out in the semifinals. A year later, Chamberlain was back and came within a victory over national power Miami Senior of taking the title.

He had no idea how difficult it would be to secure a third trip. Now, 16 years after his last final four appearance, Aplin has a greater appreciation than ever for his squad's accomplishment.

"I've figured out what it takes (to get there)," Aplin said, smiling. "Good players."

Having a good wife apparently hasn't hurt either.

Doug and Debra, a guidance specialist at Chamberlain, have been married 24 years. She attends most Chamberlain games and is the team manager.

"I've been blessed to have a wife who has been so supportive of the time the job takes and of my moods," Aplin said. "Putting up with me is a lot."

As a coach, Aplin's philosophies aren't unlike many in his profession. First and foremost, he preaches taking care of the ball. He also stresses rebounding, defense and challenging an opponent's shot, he said.

"He always makes sure we don't play around," forward Kylan Robinson said.

Aplin doesn't deny that he sometimes is a bit on the loud side when making his point. But he insists he has mellowed in recent years.

"It's funny," he said. "I've had ex-players tell me, "You would have never let me get away with that.' But I still have my moments."

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at 226-3350 or niebuhr@sptimes.com.

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