Most high school basketball teams have a tough time producing a winning record in Columbia County.
Lakeside girls coach Drew Shelton talks to his team during a time-out during the Hephzibah game Friday.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Many Richmond County schools take out revenge on the court for being dominated in soccer, softball, volleyball and baseball. The last time a Columbia County public school made the playoffs was Harlem in 2002, and a county school hasn't won a playoff game in several years.
It's especially difficult for first-time coaches trying to start anew.
This season, four teams have new coaches attempting to put their stamp on their teams.
Donnie Burch and Drew Shelton now lead the boys and girls teams at Lakeside, while Moe McCormack and Mike Guthrie have taken over at Augusta Prep.
"It's an exciting process," Guthrie said. "It has been my dream to coach my own team, and now it is a reality."
The dream seemed distant while the retired Army colonel spent six months in Baghdad, Iraq. Guthrie, a 1978 graduate of West Point, returned home and interviewed for the Prep boys job.
Guthrie, 48, headed into the interview with his only coaching experience being with a junior varsity team at West Point in the mid-1980s and at a military high school in Brussels, Belgium.
He did, however, play for coaching legend Mike Krzyzewski at Army.
"I had a similar background as Coach K," Guthrie said. "We both played at West Point and spent time in the service before getting into coaching.
"I retired from the Army in October, so this was the dream opportunity for me," Guthrie said. "I'm happy to be at such a great school as Augusta Prep."
Lakeside boys coach Donnie Burch calls out to his team during the game against Hephzibah. Two new coaches have also arrived to lead Augusta Prep's basketball teams.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Guthrie won his Cavalier debut over Gatewood on Friday.
McCormack joins Guthrie as a new head coach for the Cavaliers.
McCormack had spent a number of seasons as a collegiate head coach in the Northeast.
"The one thing I definitely won't miss is recruiting," said McCormack, an Aquinas graduate returning home to the Augusta area.
"You teach the same way as you do in college. You just have to be a little more patient," he said.
Patience is something Burch has had to develop.
The first-year coach takes over for a Lakeside team that lost four starters, including Matt Scott, whose 25 points a game garnered him a scholarship to Georgia Southern.
"I had to realize early that we would have growing pains," Burch said. "There will be a drop off when you lose a scorer like Matt. But we will just have to become more of a team."
Burch does have the luxury of lightning-quick point guard Earl McCrommon. But his 37 combined points in the team's first two games wasn't enough to avoid an 0-2 start.
The Lakeside girls team got out to a 1-1 start with Shelton.
Last season, Shelton served as the administrative coach, but the hands-on coaching duties went to community coaches Scott Resseguie and Frank Fidler.
"It was a tough situation for the girls," Shelton said. "They couldn't see either of the coaches during the school day if they needed to talk to them. It is better for them, I think, to have an on-campus coach."
All four new coaches will agree that their tenure will always be measured by wins and losses.
"We understand that, but teaching the kids the game and having a fun time out there is important," Burch said.
"That is the most important thing."
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