Season leaves Bonar determined to find scheme that fits
His worst season as a high school head basketball coach mercifully came to an end little more than a week ago. So how has De Soto boys coach Jim Bonar passed that time, now void of practices, games and the burden of a 3-18 season?
He's watched basketball -- lots of it. Whether it's old De Soto games or new sub-state games, nationally televised college games or the nearest high school state tournament, he said he's absorbed everything he can. He is still as plugged in as he could possibly be for two reasons, he said.
First, no matter how bruised it left him at the end of a long season, he still loves the game.
And second, somewhere, somehow he's convinced he'll find the answer to what ailed his team in the 2006-2007 campaign.
"I still don't know what I would do different. If I had 10 more games this season, I still don't think I'd have it figured out," Bonar said. "We're changing things for next year, looking for different directions and philosophies. I'm watching games, college games and other high schools to figure out what they're doing right."
Thus far Bonar said he's realized that everything and one thing went wrong at the same time. The one thing, he said, is himself. He accepted responsibility for the team's woes several different times during the season, and he was quick to do so again afterward.
"This year, I have to hang it on me," Bonar said after the team's season ending sub-state loss to Kansas City-Piper. "I didn't find the right matchups or plays for us. I didn't get things demanded I should have gotten demanded and it has to rest with me.
"Those kids are better than what I got out of them. Should we have won them all? No, but with a better job by me, we could have had an eight or nine win season."
Without its two top scorers from the season prior, this year's Wildcats had holes from the start. Factor in a number of other underclassmen that didn't return for various reasons and questions became problems. Consider finally that of those that did come back, not a single one with varsity experience topped 6-foot-2 and problems became potentially fatal flaws.
Still, the Cats returned a set of experienced guards and short-but-tough forwards. They had a potential leading scorer in junior Andre Linzy and leadership in the paint in junior Erik Hill. That combined with senior point guard Brady Seaman returning to the team after taking a year off convinced Bonar the Cats' best chance at success came from a fast-paced, pressing style.
That's how De Soto played its first part of the season -- at a breakneck pace. It had mixed results however, both on the scoreboard and on the practice floor.
"I still totally regret going away from that," Bonar said. "I didn't get my kids sold on it. We were running people in and out, but we weren't wearing people out. I didn't get it through to them.
"I need to go back and look at what I need to get across."
From there, Bonar said he changed plans, schemes and strategies continually searching for something to click.
There were moments that it did. The Cats won in their third game of the season, beating Olathe Christian 85-50, then beat Frontier League rival Eudora in double overtime, 65-62.
The Cats' final win came Feb. 6, a 59-36 victory at Prairie View.
There were moments of other games Bonar said stood out as highlights, but the entire team's highlight actually came in a loss. De Soto fell 54-43 in overtime at Baldwin in one of the final games of the season.
The Cats surged after an early Linzy dunk and shot accurately through much of the game. Sophomore Tommy Elmer banked a shot in with 14 seconds remaining in overtime to give De Soto a lead, but Baldwin responded to take the game.
The Bulldogs went on to play in the sub-state semi-finals, falling to top-seed Kansas-City Piper by just two points.
"Losing isn't fun, but (this group) has made it bearable," senior Jordan Smith said. "It was a lot of people from different cliques and groups, and it was really fun to work with. We didn't have people yelling at each other. We stayed together throughout the whole season and we just kept trucking."
Bonar said he spent all season looking for an answer, and he intends to maintain the search until he finds one.
He said he wants to build the 2007-2008 season around a core of players that shows up for summer camps and off-season workout sessions. He wants to count on the kids that eagerly take the floor, not those that need to be coerced -- those that buy into whatever the plans ends up being, not those that are searching for their own stat lines.
De Soto only loses two seniors, Seaman and Jordan Smith. The Cats should return leading scorers Hill and Linzy, emerging long-ball specialists Travis Crow and Brendon Hudson and versatile young players Tommy Elmer and Drew Roddy. One upside to the constant shifts and the season-long search for answers: nearly every player on the varsity roster compiled significant varsity experience.
Just days after the end of the season, Bonar said he doesn't have any time to waste.
"You can't always win, but you find out who you are. Sometimes I looked in the mirror and didn't like who I was," Bonar said. "We're already working on next year. I've only got seven or eight months to get my act together, dissect what these kids can do and put a season plan together.
"I need all the time I can get to put this together."