Back when Drew Washabaugh took over McConnellsburg's boys basketball program, he was pretty sure he'd have success.
"I told them a monkey could coach this team," Washabaugh said.
It looks like now he'll have to call himself King Kong, because Washabaugh has been named the Public Opinion Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
Washabaugh walked into a tough situation, having been named the Spartan head coach just a few days before practice began. Luckily, he had spent the two previous years as the JV coach.
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"It was a nightmare," he said. "But I think it helped because I had coached most of the guys. I give the guys a lot of credit, though. I told them from the get-go that there are things in life you can't control, but we're all just here to play high school basketball."
After a rocky start, during which the Spartans went 3-3, they seriously turned a corner post-Christmas. After falling by a combined two points in both games of the Fannett-Metal Christmas Tournament, McConnellsburg was unstoppable after the break. It reeled off 16 straight victories and didn't lose again until the Inter-County Conference championship.
Along the way, the Spartans earned two key victories over rival Southern Fulton to break a decade-long losing skid; won the Sideling Hill League title for the first time in 34 years; and clinched their first-ever ICC South crown.
"You know in a season, you're going to have ups and downs, but I had confidence in them," Washabaugh said. "To go on a winning streak like that was incredible. We went down to Southern Fulton, and that was a really big win for us just as far as our confidence against a great program. We stayed the course, trusted the process and came out with a win down there."
Another obstacle Washabaugh had to overcome was working with only one returning starter in Chase Novak. But again, he had experience working in his favor, as Nic Culler, Ethan Barclay and Chance Hawbaker all made big contributions after coming up from JV last season.
"They didn't look at me as a new coach because they knew how I coached," Washabaugh said. "They all had a good relationship with Chase, too, and Nic and Ethan being so vocal was big to help us get through the whole season."
With one year under his belt, Washabaugh is already looking to the future, which will be yet another challenge. McConnellsburg graduates four of its five starters. But for the last few years, the Spartans have been building a junior high program that should bode well for years to come.
"We're trying to build a program, not just one season," Washabaugh said. "We'll probably be down next year, but we'll be sneaky on people. I have two sons coming up (12 and 9), so my goal is to stick with it. This is a years long process to build a program."