When Kyle Sears took a call from Randy DeShone on Monday, June 16, it quickly became evident that the purpose of the call was not the coincidental occasion of Sears’ 30th birthday.
“I asked Kyle if it’s true he’s going to be Elkhart Memorial’s coach,” DeShone said with a mischievous laugh. “He said, ‘Well, I’m not really supposed to tell anyone yet.’ Then I asked him if he knows who Elkhart Central’s coach is going to be.”
Then DeShone shared that answer. Wasting no time, the two men proceeded to talk for some 30 minutes about their visions of what an Elkhart schools basketball feeder program should entail.
The Search Process
According to Elkhart Community Schools director of business operations and athletic coordinator Bob Woods, there were approximately 30 applicants for the Central and Memorial boys basketball head coaching positions. A committee comprised of Woods, Central athletic director Buck Buckley, Memorial athletic director Jacquie Rost, one other administrator from each school and one outgoing senior player from each school formed the initial screening committee. “Five or six” candidates were sent forward to a selection committee that consisted of superintendent Robert Haworth, Central principal Frank Serge and Memorial principal Mark Tobolski.
DeShone was named Central boys basketball head coach Tuesday, while Sears was named to head up Memorial.
Twine’s take on the two choices by Elkhart Community Schools: Home run. Touchdown. Critical 3-pointer swished.
There was some luck involved, too. While conducting a statewide search, two men who are already residents of Elkhart emerged.
Making the Elkhart feeder program more productive is a charge that’s been given to the new coaches by superintendent Robert Haworth, according to Sears.
Sears and DeShone are adamant that they can make it happen in a two-high school town, where obstacles exceed those presented in a one-high school town.
“We need to be working together, not separate,” said Sears, who grew up in Elkhart and is a 2002 graduate of Memorial. “Absolutely, I think that can be done while still having a great rivalry. Anytime you step on a field of competition, whether it’s your best friend or whatever, you want to win, and that’s not going to change.”
“I wouldn’t accept this job if I thought the (Memorial coach) was somebody I couldn’t work with,” DeShone said, “but I think Kyle was an excellent choice and is a fantastic person.”
“We don’t know each other well,” Sears said of DeShone, “but we’ve talked on numerous occasions and it’s always been cordial. I think we communicate well together.”
ECS conducted its search for its two new coaches in a single-project manner that drew at least mild criticism from a handful of callers and e-mailers to this office, but DeShone and Sears are different enough in background to confirm that the search committee didn’t confine itself to a cookie-cutter approach.
DeShone, 52, brings 20 years of head coaching experience, comes from outside the Central program and has a history of engineering patient offenses, though he does say that last item might change with the Blue Blazers.
Sears, 30, brings no years of head coaching experience, comes from inside the Memorial program and has plenty of exposure to an up-tempo flavor, between his time as a Bethel College All-American, Elkhart Express pro player and six-year assistant to Mark Barnhizer, his Crimson Charger predecessor.
On the lighter side of the contrasts, DeShone can barely run after knee surgery, while Sears is alleged to still have more game than most area players.
In DeShone, Central landed the coach who has orchestrated the only state boys basketball title in Elkhart County history, Jimtown’s Class 2A crown in 2004.
His overall record, entirely with the Jimmies before resigning in 2011 to become an administrator there, is 241-201. That may not leave some Blazer backers blazing with excitement, but they need to consider it a little more deeply.
DeShone’s .545 percentage is the best among Jimtown’s last 12 head coaches, and it was achieved at a school where football is clearly No. 1 in the hearts of the best athletes and the support of the fan base. At Central, DeShone will find boys basketball to be at least co-No. 1 in those regards.
Further, DeShone has a long-established reputation for putting academics and discipline ahead of basketball. That’s merely the way it should be.
As for Sears, there is no long-established body of work, but between his teaching and coaching at Memorial, ECS personnel ought to know what he’s about by now.
Everybody needs to start somewhere, and hiring a head coach with no such experience beats hiring one with a long trail of losing or a long trail of bouncing from place to place.
Further, no less an authority than Mark Barnhizer — a former Indiana All-Star coach with 384 wins and an enviable player-development record over 30 seasons — predicted a couple years ago that Sears will be “an outstanding head coach someday,” and lamented the potential of losing Sears from his own staff.
Odd how those things work out sometimes.
Now we anxiously wait to find out how both new basketball hires work out for Elkhart.
Contact Anthony Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AnthonyAnders11.