Wheaton relying on alumnus to build for future
Bulldogs rebuilding with former player, area coach at the helm
When Chris Kennedy tells fans that he is a Bulldogs fan through and through, and that he can see himself retiring from the school, they can believe him.
Kennedy is in his first season as both boys basketball coach and athletic director, but he is no stranger to coaching or Wheaton. An alumnus of the Class of 1986, Kennedy has returned home to help resurrect a program with a proud tradition on the hardwood.
"I knew what challenges awaited me when I got this job," he said. "It helps that I moved home and I know the community, fans, other coaches and referees. With my experience, I don't have to go out and prove myself as a coach. I can get to work building the team up."
Kennedy's coaching career has included stops at Purdy, Walker, Hollister and, most recently, at Hallsville.
"I left a team full of juniors and a good situation to come to Wheaton," Kennedy said. "My goal here is to establish a solid foundation and help this program grow. I think we have some pieces, now the goal is just getting the boys to believe and execute the game plan."
As fate would have it, Kennedy's wife was hired as the new girls basketball coach at Monett. Around the same time, he began to look for a job in southwest Missouri, he received a phone call from Wheaton asking for names of potential candidates to fill their vacancy created by the departure of Mike Austin.
"It happened nearly simultaneously," Kennedy said of the job opening. "I'm not scared of a challenge and a little hard work."
The Bulldogs won the first game of the season against Sarcoxie to match their win total from all of last season. Since then, they have dropped nine-straight, but Kennedy is not worried. He is starting five underclassmen and his first two substitutes off the bench are freshmen.
"We are a young team that is still learning to play the game my way," Kennedy said. "We are learning to react with the ball. Find the open man without having to stop and think about what to do next. It will come with time, practice and hard work. Some of these players had zero minutes of playing time last season."
Kennedy said his ideal team plays aggressive, man-to-man defense that challenges every opponent shot. On offense, the team should attack, distribute and be relentless on the glass.