Changing the culture: Seymour boys basketball team making improvements over summer months


Seymour High School’s boys basketball team hasn’t wasted any time in the offseason.

Between practices, weightlifting and games, the Owls have spent a lot of time trying to raise expectations under first-year coach Kirk Manns.

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While Manns and his coaching staff have helped the team enhance fundamental and tactical skills in the summer months, he has also stressed a change in culture to the club.

“The first thing we’re trying to get accomplished is creating a culture of hard work,” Manns said. “A culture that we buy-in to the hard work, and we continue to strive the best we can be on a daily basis. On the basketball floor, we’re trying to instill a type of attitude that our kids want to do the hard things. Like defending and rebounding, and wanting to play hard for each other and play for one another. I think we’re in the beginning stages of that.”

The Owls competed in the one-day Whiteland Shootout Wednesday.

Games were held at Clark Pleasant Middle School, Whiteland’s feeder program, located down the road from the high school in Greenwood. Each team played three games on the day.

The Owls went 0-3 in the shootout, falling to Portage, Whiteland and Terre Haute North. Other teams in attendance included Greencastle, Indian Creek, Indianapolis Lutheran, Madison, Morristown, and Rock Creek Academy.

Manns said he wanted to see how his team responded to adversity by bringing them to a shootout.

“A shootout gives you a different concept. It’s three games in a very short period of time,” he said. “We played one at 12:15 that took a lot of energy out of us and then we played a game at 2:15 and another at 4:15. You have to be able to fight through the fatigue mentally. It gives you a chance to not only battle physically, but also mentally. That carries from the basketball floor to life.”

Manns, who has served as the athletic director at SHS since 2016, was hired as the head varsity boys basketball coach in April. Manns replaced Tyler Phillips, who coached the Owls the past three seasons. Under Phillips, the Owls finished 3-20 during the 2018-19 season.

Right now, the Owls are working five days per week.

“It has been a good summer,” Manns said. “The kids, for the most part, are working five days per week with basketball and weight and agility training. They’ve put a lot of hours in. I think their commitment level has been very good, and the amount of work we have been able to get done this month has been good. We need to continue to take steps forward. Overall, I’ve been pleased.”

Manns said the kids have responded well to the changes the program has undergone.

“The boys have been receptive,” he said. “They’ve been coachable, and that’s really important. They’re doing a lot of the little things that have nothing to do with basketball, but have everything to do with basketball.”

Eric McCoy, and incoming senior, said the team has been working hard.

“We have a new system that we’re getting into, and we need to move the ball a little bit better. We need to play harder,” McCoy said. “We’re just adapting to everything. It’s a big change for us. (Manns) has been stressing for us to play as a team and to play hard. He has been telling us to not play for ourselves, but to play for each other and be a team.”

Incoming senior Jayden Brown agreed with McCoy, and said that the team still has a lot of work to do.

“We need to get a better pace and more in shape. I think that’s one of our biggest problems right now,” Brown said. “We have been working on playing harder on defense.”

After Manns was approved by the school board, he quickly assembled his high school coaching staff.

Randy Fife will work as the Owls’ junior varsity coach, Matt Trimnell is the freshman coach, and Steve Bush is a varsity assistant.

Fife, who has coached and taught at Seymour since 1985, was the varsity head basketball coach from 1990 to 1993. The last team to win a sectional title was coached by Fife during the 1991-92 season. Fife will also be in his 35th year of coaching boys track and field and 17th season as the head coach of the boys cross-country team this year.

“Coach Fife has many, many years of coaching experience,” Manns said. “Not only with basketball, but with our track and cross-country teams. He has coached other sports as well. He was the head basketball coach here in the 90s and he has a great understanding of where we are.”

Bush, Principal at Seymour-Redding Elementary School, came to Seymour in 2013 with former basketball coach Kyle Clough. Bush coached with Clough for three years before Clough left and Phillips was hired.

“Steve Bush has great experience. He came in here with coach (Kyle) Clough, and were able to build and do a lot of positive things here with the program,” Manns said. “Steve has a great understanding of where we are and where we want to be.”

Trimnell is a former SHS player who also played at Indiana University Southeast. Trimnell, a 2010 grad, scored 1,298 career at SHS, ranking him fifth all-time. He was also named IBCA Senior All-State in his final season with the Owls.

“All three of those guys, including myself, are all invested in Seymour in one way or another,” Manns said. “Steve and I have been here the least amount of time, but we believe in Seymour and believe in the town. We want to do things that will help Seymour. Randy has been here for a long time and Matt is an alum. We have all those things. We needed a coaching staff not just interested in Seymour basketball and what was going on, but who is interested in the Seymour school community and community in general.”

The Owls will continue workouts until the fall sports slate overtakes the current schedule in August.