From Left Field
The "elder statesman" of Adams County boys basketball coaches (of which there are only two, as of Tuesday night) is sure Bellmont's new hire, 25-year-old John Baker, will do just fine, despite his youthfulness.
Aaron McClure understands what it means to be so young when landing your first head coaching job. He was only 24 when named Adams Central's head basketball coach 12 years ago.
"John will do just fine. He worked with me for a couple of years; I know him and I think it's a great choice " McClure said.
Baker, a player on Bellmont's State runnerup team of 2004 and the Braves' jayvee coach last season, will be trying to turn around a struggling program. McClure says age really isn't that much of a factor.
"In many ways, coaching on Friday night is the easy part," said the AC middle school principal in his second go-round as Jets head coach. "So much of coaching is all the other stuff; talking with you guys (newspaper people) and the radio, lining up your feeder program, your summer program, preparing your practices ... just so many other details.
"John is very capable, calm, very mature for his age. He knows the game. Like I said, I think he's a very good choice. He has the type of demeanor which will help him be successful."
"People are going to question his experience, and wonder if it is too early for John to be a head coach" BHS Athletic Director Dale Manis told the Democrat's Jim Hopkins for a recent story. "But with the experience he's had and the maturity beyond his years that he possesses ... well, we feel comfortable with the choice. John is going to be an excellent and enthusiastic leader of the Bellmont boys basketball program."
McClure agrees. And, says the man who surely faced some of the doubts which Baker will bump into, "I don't think age has a lot to do with it.
"Oh, sure, some young coaches think they can conquer the world. But it's like I said, it's all the other things you have to deal with. And there's nothing to prepare you for that. In a game, when do you call timeout? What do you say in the timeout? Those types of things, too. "But age isn't really a factor; you can be 45 (years old) and if you've never been a head coach before, those are the things you have to experience. It's gonna take two, three years (as a head coach) to get to know all these things, all those little details. It doesn't matter what age you are.
"I like to think our program here is better now for all the things I've experienced.
A sixth-grade teacher at Bellmont Middle School, Baker was a student manager for Purdue Coach Matt Painter for three years, and comes highly recommended by Painter. The Boilermaker boss, according to Manis, said Baker "was a sponge as he learned all that he could, about film study, about the game, a head coach's demeanor in games and his work with his assistants."
McClure's not surprised by the glowing words. "Again, I think it's a good choice. I'll be a Bellmont fan now ... well, except on December 28 or 29 or so (when his Jets take on the Braves in their annual matchup)," McClure chuckled.
Funny thing is, when Larry Patterson stepped down at Bellmont, that youthful go-getter, the young gun hired at AC at age 24, became the "old guy" among boys basketball coaches in the county. "Yeah, but I'm a youthful 36," McClure laughed. "You know, I once thought 30 was old. Now, 40 doesn't look all that bad."
FOOTNOTE: It was pointed out here when McClure was hired at Adams Central and now bears repeating: When storied Milan won its storied State championship in 1954, its head coach, Marvin Wood (No, not Gene Hackman!) was 26 years old.
Color us confused
Let's see, now.
A North Adams school board member says she won't be a "rubber stamp" and votes not to hire Nate Andrews as Bellmont football coach after reading in this newspaper about his selection by the school people in charge of making a recommendation.
The board member votes "no." The vote to hire is 3-2.
At the same meeting, John Baker is hired as boys basketball coach a week or so after a story is in the same newspaper about his selection by the same people. He is hired on a 5-0 vote ... and there are no "rubber stamp" comments; in fact, no comments at all.
Are we missing something?