ELKHART — Scott Sekal knows the clock is ticking.
But the new boys basketball coach at Elkhart Central High School is ready to hit the court running to get the Blue Blazers ready for the 2019-20 season.
Sekal, who played for Jud Heathcote at Michigan State and has served as an assistant under three coaches at Central, was approved as the head basketball coach Tuesday night by the Elkhart School Board.
Sekal replaces Barry Singrey, who resigned in June after one season with the Blue Blazers to spend more time with his family.
"I am very excited for this opportunity,'' Sekal said. "Missing out on summer basketball isn't ideal, but I want to start working with as many kids as I can as quickly as possible to help them learn my philosophy of the game.
"I always love going back to the court, either as a head coach or an assistant. I love the game – every aspect of it.''
A former head coach in both North Carolina and Michigan, Sekal has served as an assistant under three Blue Blazer coaches – Matt Windy, Troy Noble and Terry Smith. He will be the sixth head coach at Central in nine years following Windy, Randy DeShone, Noble, Smith and Singrey.
In addition, Sekal has been a coach and now a commissioner at Michigan State basketball camps under Spartan legends Heathcote and Tom Izzo. Last June marked his 30th year in helping coach over 600 players each year.
"Jud, man what a great man ... he just taught me so much about basketball and growing up as a person,'' Sekal said. "Coach Izzo still runs a lot of the things he learned under Jud when he was an assistant. I have truly been blessed to be around a lot of great coaches and to learn from them all.''
In addition to Izzo, current Chicago Bulls coach Jim Boylen was an assistant under Heathcote while Sekal played at MSU.
A young Elkhart Central team was 5-17 under Singrey last season, but the Blazers continued to improve during the year and nearly upset Warsaw in the semifinals of the Class 4A sectional at North Side Gym in March.
"I loved that they played young and got some of those younger kids the experience to see the emotion and passion it takes to play at the varsity level,'' Sekal said. "I applaud coach Singrey for giving those kids the chance last season. I'll know some of the kids from coaching with Terry (Smith) and of course from being at the high school, but for many of us, it will be a fresh start.
"I've always believed that you see what kind of pieces you have on your basketball team and then figure out what kind of offense to run. But I like to control the tempo – whether it's fast or slow – and then playing several types of hard-nosed defenses. Some of the things we'll do will be hard to pick-up, so I'll want to convey things to our players as soon as we can.''
With Elkhart Central and Elkhart Memorial merging in 2020, Sekal will have a guaranteed job for just one season.
But that's not something he's concerned about.
"I am just honored to have the opportunity to be the head coach, even if it's just for one year,'' Sekal said. "I'm very excited and I feel this is a great opportunity for me. The merger will present a lot of questions in all the sports and I'd rather be coaching when it happens. Is basketball in the future for me? I'm not sure of course, but I want to make it a positive experience for our players every day that I'm coaching.''
Sekal also credits his Michigan State 'family' for helping him become a head coach.
"The guys that played for Jud and Tom are like a fraternity and there is no generation gap either,'' Sekal said. "East Lansing is kind of my home-away-from-home and I've always enjoyed going for the camps, not just for the networking and the ability to learn from other coaches, but also just to see everyone again. There is so much knowledge around a successful program and it's great to just soak things up.''
Dane Fife, a current assistant to Izzo and a former Michigan Mr. Basketball – who played at Indiana University – has known Sekal for 10 years through the MSU camps and has been impressed with his communication skills both on and off the basketball court.
"I think Elkhart has hired a great communicator and a great coach and I believe he'll be a strong hire,'' Fife said. "He can communicate with players very well, but he can also talk just as easily about what is important with education and sports with anyone. He's also a guy that's not afraid to have a tough conversation when it's needed. But at the same time, he's not self-serving at all, he's just interested in helping young people grow and I believe his players will see that and respect it.''
Sekal has also served as both the girls and boys golf coach at Central for the past several years and is getting ready for the Blue Blazers' girls season, which begins next week.