Formulating a relationship with the kids is, without question, a critical component of being a successful head coach.
That’s exactly what Bill Hafer has done, and will have to continue to do, as the newest leader of the West basketball program. The 36 year-old was named as the head coach of the program earlier this month.
For the 2000 East High School and 2009 Shawnee State graduate, the opportunity is one that he welcomes with open arms.
“It’s very exciting,” Hafer said. “I have been with the seniors since I was in the seventh and eighth grade, when I was their junior high coach. When they became freshmen, I was their junior varsity coach. They’ve grown up together as players, and I have grown up, more or less, as a coach. We’re familiar with each other. It’s going to be a pretty good time.”
Hafer, who works as an intervention specialist at West, played under several of Southeastern Ohio’s greatest basketball minds. He played under Richard Hopkins with the Tartans during his first three years of high school and then played under Vinton County head coach Matt Combs in his final year of play. Hafer also was coached by former Portsmouth standout and Piketon hand Jeff Lisath in AAU play.
Over the past 11 years, Hafer has used the experiences that he took from playing under those great basketball minds to his advantage. Hafer assisted Travis Bradford for four seasons as a varsity assistant and was the head coach of the junior high squad during that same stretch at East. When Bradford made the move to West, Hafer followed him, and over the past six years, helped two well-respected individuals in Bradford and Scott Davis by serving as the junior high head coach for the first three years of his tenure and the junior varsity head coach from 2014-15 to this past season.
“It’s something that I’ve always strived to do,” Hafer said. “It means a lot. I’ve had family members that have coached at West, so I’m following in their footsteps somewhat. I’m very grateful for the school board giving me this opportunity. It means a lot to me.”
However, while West has been competitive in SOC II play, Hafer will be looking to change the fortunes of the program from a win-loss standpoint.
According to records that date back from the 2005-06 season, West has only recorded one winning season over the last dozen campaigns — that being a 12-11 season in 2012-13. That year — according to tournament records that date back to the 1998-1999 season — was also the closest that the Senators came to advancing to district tournament play at the Convo, as the Senators lost to Valley in a 67-62 overtime affair.
So how does Hafer plan on righting the Senators’ ship?
By starting on the defensive end of the floor — where the first-year head coach says that West will have to eliminate easy baskets, regardless of the look that’s applied.
“We’re really honing in on the defensive end of the floor,” Hafer said. “We’re going in with the philosophy of, ‘Whichever team makes the easiest shot wins the game.’ If we force our opponents to take bad shots on the defensive end, and move the basketball and take good shots on the offensive end, then we’ll have a pretty good chance to win the game. I lean more man-to-man, but I’m willing to play zone. We’ll see how it goes.”
Offensively, Hafer plans to run a motion offense that is about getting the best look possible.
“We’re not very big, so we’ve got to move the ball as much as possible,” Hafer said. “In the past, we’ve taken a lot of threes. I don’t want to take as many as we have been in the past. We just want to move the basketball and try to obtain the best shots that we can. It’ll definitely be a motion offense.”
It helps that Hafer already has a repore with the vast majority of the players on the current roster. The upcoming senior class, which includes L.T. Maynard, Jordan Frasure, Blaine Weaver, and Hunter Blackler, along with the junior trio of Jesse Johnson, Dylan Bradford, and Josh Berry, have known Hafer since he started working his way up through the coaching ranks at West six years ago.
“L.T. and Jordan have started off and on since they were sophomores,” Hafer said. “They’re very familiar with the program, and I look for big years out of them. Jessie brings a scoring punch to the table, and he led the team off the bench last year. Dylan played varsity over the majority of the year this past season. He’ll get quite a big of playing time, as well.”
And as he’s seen with his current set of players, Hafer knows that getting the grade school programs on the same page is the ticket for success.
“I want to be able to be involved with the junior high and pee wee programs, and hopefully, we can build the program up,” Hafer said. “We haven’t won a sectional title at West in nearly 20 years, so that’s our No. 1 goal for now. Eventually, we want to contend for an SOC II title, but if we can make it to the Convo, that will be huge for us.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7