To say the Alcovy basketball program has been in a flux for the past couple years would be an understatement. Now with a new coach in Duane Kelley, the program could finally be headed in the right direction. In our Q&A with Kelley, he speaks on summer workouts, his style of play and getting the program to the state playoffs.
The Covington News: How’d you come about getting the job?
Duane Kelley: I just applied for it. I got an interview. I guess, after the interview, they felt I was the best person for the job (he laughed). I’m kind of familiar with rebuilding programs and things of that nature. I think that’s one of my strengths. I guess they saw that and decided to offer me the job, and I’m happy to have it.
CN: How will you go about rebuilding?
Kelley: Well, the first thing we’re going to have to do is outwork everybody else. We started in the summer with our summer workouts. We’ve been running and lifting weights and trying to get the kids in shape to get ready for the style of ball that I like to play. We’re going to continue that in the fall. After the first week of school, three days a week we’re going to be lifting and running, and we’re just going to try to get bigger and stronger like that. We’re going to work on our strength. We’re going to workout every day, three days a week and try to become better basketball players and better young men. I know a lot of people looked at the job and maybe thought it was something that they didn’t want, but I looked at it as a challenge. We’re going to have to get in that gym and bust our butt and try to improve every day as individuals. Hopefully that pays off come regular season.
CN: Tell me a little bit about your style of play.
Kelley: I’m an up-tempo kind of guy. We like to get up and down the floor. We like to create pressure and turnovers with our defense. My style is similar to what you see at Louisville and VCU. You get people out of their comfort zone and try to play at a faster pace. We hope that our conditioning will allows us to be stronger ball players at the end. Our philosophy is no one is gonna beat us because we’re tired (he laughed). For 32 minutes I guess you just better be ready to get up and down the floor, because that’s what we want to do.
CN: What have you been working on this summer?
Kelley: We’ve been working on trying to get kids to understand the basic concepts of man-to-man defense. I think a lot of times kids don’t understand that concept of getting your feet into position to defend your man and to be able to help when you’re not guarding on the ball. I think our biggest thing, we've just been trying to teach basic man-to-man concepts, how to keep your hands in passing lanes and how to make people go from side-to-side instead of just having a clear path to the basket. The biggest thing is just changing the mindset. When you’re coming off a 2-24 season, a lot of times I think people tend to have a level of apathy. Right now to be honest I think we’re probably considered the laughing stock of Newton County. I think that’s what people see when they see us. We’re just trying to teach kids basic man-to-man principles and overall defensive principles. Our motto is one contested shot or no shot. We want to play good defense, keep our man in front of us, keep us between the basket and the person we’re guarding, and that’s what we’re going to try to do. We’re just doing basketball 101 basically.
CN: Would you say you’re defense-first or offense-first?
Kelley: Defense. Me personally, I’m an offensive guy. I like to fill it up, but I know you don’t win (he laughed). You’re not going to win just concentrating on offense. I understand the importance of defense and we stress defense daily. I know we can score because hopefully we’re going to be able to score off opportunities created by our defense. What we try to do is we try to focus on stopping other people from scoring right now, and the other stuff will come. I’ve got great help from my assistant coaches in trying to put our basic defensive philosophy in play, and just try to grow from that. We can sit here and talk about pressuring, running and creating turnovers, but if we don’t have the basic fundamentals of playing defense with your feet instead of your hands, whatever we want to do won’t be successful.
CN: You said you have a history of rebuilding programs. Tell me a little about that.
Kelley: My first head coaching job was on Cook County. They hadn’t won a game in two years when I got there. We won nine games our first year, the next year we went over .500 for the first time in 15-20 years. I went from there to Northeast-Macon — they hadn’t gone to state in maybe 10-12 years. I won five or six games the first year. Our program went to the state every year we were there [after that]. I went from there to Stockbridge. At Stockbridge, even though they had a history of being successful in terms of win/loss percentages, they had never gone to the state playoffs. We were fortunate enough in my four years there to win the first region championship in school history. We went to at least the sweet sixteen or the elite eight every year we were there. We try to develop a sense of pride in the program. We try to get our kids to understand that putting on the uniform of – in this case of the Alcovy Tigers – it means something, and to take pride in it because right now nobody else is.
CN: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kelley: I feel like I’m starting this program from scratch. Coach (Eugene) Brown had taken this program from its infancy and had turned it into one of the state’s most recognized programs. They [Alcovy] were in our region when I was at Stockbridge, it was always a tough battle, and we just want to get it to that and build upon it. We’re going to give it our best effort and try to do what we do. There are six teams in our region and four of those teams go to the state, and we don’t see why we can’t be one of those teams.