KINGWOOD — The Preston High boys’ basketball team will look to redeem itself this season after a series of disappointing years fans may want to forget about all together.
Like any facet of life, the journey from the bottom comes with its fair share of struggles that challenge the will to succeed. One man who believes he can lead the Knights through the trials to triumph is first-year head coach Paul Koontz.
“We’re really working hard,” Koontz said. “I came in and gave them the scenario about knowing where we were, where we are and where we want to be. We’ve been coming in with the attitude that we play how we practice and we practice hard with a lot of energy. We’ll see how well that translates.”
Koontz will have plenty of experience to work with this season, with 10 upperclassmen that include seniors Matthew Allen, Andrew Lantz, Payton Fazenbaker, David Reckart, Jacob Livengood, Hayden Park, Matt Thomas, and Justin Moats; and juniors Ethan Livengood and Corey Pyles.
A key to reviving a team that’s been lackluster is giving it motivation to get getter, and one of Koontz’s motivational factors is reminding the team how its season ended with only three wins.
“I let them know that every day. That’s not acceptable,” he said. “For the past two years, in the ranking index, there are 126 high schools and Preston High ranks 124.
“I occasionally remind them of that, but I don’t harp on it. We know that the past is in the past and we’re looking forward.”
Another factor Koontz is implementing is the belief that this team can win. He said for the seniors, he is their fourth coach in four years and on top of that, they haven’t had much success in those years.
“Losing, after a while, kind of became OK for some of them,” he said. “We’ve really been trying to work on the mental aspect of it and get them to realize that we’re playing to win and that there will be consequences for losing. I think they’re really starting to buy into it.”
Koontz’s winning attitude comes with a short, albeit impressive, coaching resume, but also is backed by a lifetime love for basketball. After 35 years of refereeing, Koontz said his knees told him it was time to move on, and coaching had always been something he wanted to pursue.
“I coached one of the middle schools at West Preston for the previous two years and in that time we were 36-4,” he said.
“We won two tournament and regular-season championships. I’m trying to get that success story to the kids at Preston. We want to accomplish the same things here and get this program back where it belongs.”
Koontz’s formula for success is not complicated and harkens back to an age-old tradition of simple fundamentals.
“Really we’re just going to be more accountable,” he said. “Were going to try and cut down the turnovers and run a more structured offense. We just have to be more disciplined and play smarter.
“A lot of the drills we do is to focus on moving the ball up the floor and getting into a set offense. We’ve had to take a few steps back and emphasize just basic passing, dribbling and catching.”
The road to redemption for Koontz and company won’t be easy, especially to start the season as the Knights battle a pair of region powerhouses in University and Morgantown High this week.