By Abigail Hintz
The 2019-20 basketball season is in full swing, and that brings a lot of busyness to the lives of those involved in the program. The teams’ assistant coaches keep the teams running smoothly, by taking parts of the head coaches’ jobs off their plates so they can focus on the big picture.
Patrick Bain came to his assistant coaching job at Cedarville after having an outstanding career playing for head men’s basketball coach Pat Estepp from 2014- 18. He joined the assistant coaching staff the following season, giving him a unique relationship with the team considering he played with several of them.
Not only that, but being a recent player gives him a perspective that Estepp does not necessarily have when it comes to the team. This makes him more approachable for the players who may be intimidated by a head coach.
Technically speaking, Bain handles a lot of offensive aspects of the game. He is constantly monitoring who’s playing their best and who’s not as well as which plays are working and which aren’t. As a former guard himself, he works with guards both offensively and defensively in practices. Overall, his goal is simply to make Coach Estepp’s job easier.
“When he walks into the gym for practice or he walks into the gym for a game he’s fully prepared and knows what the other team’s going to do, what we’re going to do and how we’re going to guard them and stuff,” Bain said.
Though the technical aspects of the game of basketball are naturally appealing to an ex-player, this isn’t the part of the job Bain is most interested in.
“I think kind of what makes you go and what makes you want to get out of bed for early morning practices or stay late is seeing those lives being impacted through the game of basketball,” Bain said.
Bain loves the opportunity he gets to be able to disciple players. He has a front row seat in seeing how God uses basketball to grow faith in the players, coaches and fans alike. Bain gets to watch his guys grow into mature men before they leave the gym for the last time.
“When the ball stops bouncing for all of them, you want to see them go into the real world with a lot of things that they’ve taken from basketball,” he said.
This passion for seeing players develop off the court is the same across the board, though the responsibilities of each assistant coach are slightly different.
John Leonzo has been one of head women’s basketball coach Kari Hoffman’s assistant coaches since 2016. A graduate of the university, Leonzo served as a student assistant for the men’s basketball team from 2011-15.
As one of two assistant coaches, Leonzo has a wide range of responsibilities. Hoffman relies heavily on him to go scout potential recruits, which includes communicating with them as well as traveling to see them play. He enjoys the competition that comes with recruiting players that other schools in the conference are also interested in.
Heading into a game, Leonzo is tasked with scouting the Jackets’ opponent. This means watching between four and five games, categorizing players by their strengths and weaknesses and studying plays and calls. He compiles information that his players need into a one page report.
He says of the job as a whole, “There’s a lot of highlights, and there’s very little lowlights. I just like working for Kari and with Kari. I love coaching women. Our girls are great, they work really hard, they’re really good teammates, they want to get better and they want to be coached.”
For a player, assistant coaches take on much different roles than a head coach. Freshman guard Isabelle Bolender says, “[Leonzo] is just very approachable. [I’m] able to just go to him with things I’m maybe not as comfortable going to a head coach [with].”
Leonzo also takes part in drawing up plays in crunch time, and is credited to designing a play that led to a game-winning shot, hit by Bolender, in Cedarville’s 70-68 victory over Ursuline on Dec. 8.
Bolender says this is true for both of her team’s assistant coaches, the other being Stephen Buettell. She says they do a lot of things for the team behind the scenes, including simply encouraging them and asking them about parts of their life that happen off the court.
For a head coach, assistant coaches are game-changing, quite literally. For Estepp, having assistant coaches allows him to focus in on his team and not have to worry about scouting other teams or leaving to go recruit. He also recognizes the unique position Bain has as a younger coach, for he is able to relate to the players better than Estepp.
“They have their fingers in every area which is big and they’re a huge help to me,” Estepp said.
Of his two other assistant coaches, Leon Neal and Terry Futrell, he says, “To have two guys that have been head coaches and have that experience and are both Godly men, all of them are Godly men. They have a lot of life experience they can translate to our guys as well.”
Abigail Hintz is a sophomore Journalism major and digital editor for Cedars. She loves reading, playing Spikeball with her friends and watching soccer 24/7.