News and Tribune

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March 23, 2012

TOP MENTORS: Generals’ Connell highlights Area Coach of the Year awards

CLARKSVILLE — TOP MENTORS

Generals’ Connell highlights Area Coach of the Year awards

BY KEVIN HARRIS

kevin.harris@newsandtribune.com

CLARKSVILLE — Midway through the 2010-11 season, the Clarksville boys’ basketball team was in a state of uncertainty.

On Dec. 29, 2010, the Generals’ head coach at the time, Greg Duke, unexpectedly resigned six games into his first season at CHS to take a job in Evansville.

Following Duke’s resignation, then-Clarksville junior varsity coach Jeff Byrne took over the reins of the program, while the CHS administration looked for a new head coach.

At the same time, the players were competing in a program that lacked a leader who could provide a solid foundation.

Enter Jason Connell.

The former Charlestown assistant boys’ basketball coach stepped in and gave the Clarksville players some direction.

“In my first meeting with them, I could tell in their eyes that they wanted to win,” Connell said. “They had to buy into me and my system. They wanted to do anything to win.”

Ever since that meeting, the Generals have done nothing but persevere.

After Connell guided Clarksville to a 10-12 overall record and a runner-up finish in the Class 2A Eastern Sectional to conclude the 2010-11 campaign, he led the Generals to their best season in more than 30 years in 2011-12.

This past season, Clarksville went 18-3, clinched a share of the Mid-Southern Conference championship with Brownstown and Silver Creek and finished the regular season ranked ninth in The Associated Press Class 2A poll.

The Generals’ turnaround is the main reason the News and Tribune has named Connell the 2011-12 Area Coach of the Year for boys’ basketball.

“It’s humbling,” Connell said about earning the award. “It’s a testimony to how hard the kids have worked. It’s a great honor for my coaching staff and myself. But it goes back to how hard the kids worked and their accomplishments this past year.”

This year’s version of the Generals joined some elite company within the walls of Clarksville High School.

The Generals’ 18 victories are the most since the 1978-79 Clarksville squad, which went 18-5. The Generals’ MSC crown was the first since Clarksville’s 1977-78 squad, which was 21-3, captured the conference title. The ‘77-78 and ‘78-79 teams won back-to-back sectional championships and were led by the program’s only Indiana All-Star, Chuck Franz.

Another accomplishment for Clarksville this season is it won the Silver Creek Holiday Tournament for the first time since 2000.

Of all the Generals’ achievements in 2011-12, Connell said winning the MSC title was at the top of the list.

“Winning conference is a complete body of work. It’s the biggest accomplishment,” Connell said.

Clarksville’s unbelievable 2011-12 season came as a shock to basketball fans across Southern Indiana.

But Connell said the Generals were not focused on surprising people this season. All they wanted to do was get better and try to win some games.

“I don’t think anybody expected that,” Connell said about his team’s 18-3 season. “I just expected the kids to work hard and do the little things to win. If you do that, the wins will come. We got on a roll.”

Clarksville loses five seniors from its 2011-12 squad. But the Generals will have several key players back, including junior forward Aidan McEwen.

“My goal is to get to where other respectable programs are at like Brownstown,” Connell said. “We want to reload every year. We want to win.”

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