When the Patriot girls basketball team takes the court in November, it will do so with a new head coach in the form of Pequot Lakes Middle School social studies teacher Brian Lempola.
Lempola is no stranger to coaching. He served as an assistant coach on the boys’ side for 10 years under longtime head coach Garry Grewe, as well as an assistant girls tennis coach for 13 years.
Now he is returning to the sidelines, ready to enjoy the camaraderie that comes with coaching.
“It's just being around the kids,” Lempola said. “All those memories - I think that they stick with you. Games are fun - it’s 26 nights of basketball excitement - but I think when you look back, it's the memories you make with those teams at practice or on the bus or whatever it is.”
Lempola was drawn to the position simply because he missed coaching, having taken a few seasons off and helping his wife raise their son. His son is now 4 years old and he feels now is a good time to return to coaching the Patriots.
“In previous times when (the job) came open, it just wasn't the right time for me and my family,” Lempola said. “Now my son is getting older and doesn't need me as much and has become more independent. I just saw an opportunity to lead a really strong program that's heading in the right direction.”
He is also familiar with the girls already, having taught them all in recent years. He said they are a “high-character group,” and he was impressed with their determination on the court this past season, starting the season 1-8 but making a late run to become section runners-up.
“They are talented throughout the younger grades,” he said. “Having Afton Crocker back, she will be huge to lean on as a senior leader, but there is a strong junior class and plenty of sophomores and freshmen, so there is talent throughout this group. I think we are going to be able to do a lot of different things.”
Lempola described his coaching style as energetic and positive, with a focus on technique and skill-building.
He said the team may lack height next year, but should make up for it with quickness and an abundance of depth - possibly more than any team he has coached before - particularly at the guard position.
“We are going to wear teams out with our depth, playing a full court and uptempo game,” he said.
Lempola said he is struggling to set goals for himself and his team in their first year together, especially since it is unclear at the moment if summer programs will take place at all. However, he expects to see improvements throughout the season in all parts of the Patriots’ game and thinks they have the potential to win a lot of games.
“I'm just excited and blessed with this opportunity,” Lempola said. “This community is definitely a basketball community, and nothing gets this community fired up as a basketball team that is a contender. So we very much hope to be in the mix in February and early March.”
Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.