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Coaches create own paths when replacing legends

Published Jan. 9 at 2:59 p.m. | Last updated Jan. 9 at 3:01 p.m.

While Melvin Herring is in his second season as the Southeast boys basketball coach and his team is 5-1, he figures he won’t have made it his program for at least another season.

“I’d say probably by your third year, you start to get your program developed for yourself,” Herring said.

Herring’s timeframe could be valid for any program, but it’s especially so for a coach who replaces a legend.

And Herring replaced a legend in Carl Taylor, who coached 20 years at Southeast, winning three Class 6A titles and 315 games. Taylor is in his first season as West’s coach.

“Carl Taylor left a legacy that was huge to step into,” Herring said. “People looking at it, what coach is coming in and would he be able to fill what Carl left behind?

“I didn’t go in trying to fill Carl’s shoes. I went to plant my own shoes, develop my own style of basketball. Stepping in behind someone like that, there’s going to be huge expectations.”

Bishop Carroll girls coach Taylor Steven and East boys coach Joe Jackson understand. They replaced legends, too.

Steven followed Don Racine, who won 564 games and a Class 5A title in 33 seasons before resigning after the 2011-12 season, while Jackson replaced Ron Allen, who coached 18 seasons at East and two at West, winning two Class 6A titles and 301 games. Allen also resigned after 2011-12.

Steven, Herring and Jackson had previous relationships with the coaches they replaced. Steven was a guard on Racine’s state title team, while Jackson coached for three years with Allen and Herring coached with Taylor for one.

Herring credits Taylor with giving him a chance. Jackson said he was a sponge with Allen, trying to soak up as much information as he could. And Steven, well, she wants to bring a title to Carroll, just like Racine did.

But Steven, Jackson and Herring are putting their own mark on their programs — and they’re winning.

Southeast has the one loss, East is 7-0, and the Carroll girls are 4-2.

There are slight differences with each program.

Steven stomps a lot less than Racine, and she runs a motion offense and focuses on man defense, which is a departure from Racine’s reliance on the matchup zone.

“We’ll throw in a zone here and there, but it is fun to teach man, and there’s so many fundamentals that go into it,” said Steven, 28, who played at Wichita State and was an assistant at Colorado State.

Herring, 48, is a disciplinarian like Taylor, and his offensive and defensive schemes are similar to Taylor’s, except he sees his defense as being more uptempo and he’s definitely a fan of zone.

Jackson is a mild-mannered man, like Allen, but he uses a different man-to-man offense and prefers a pressure man defense.

“Zone-wise we’ve done a lot of the same things as Coach Allen,” said Jackson, 31. “Some of his zone sets were phenomenal.”

East senior Tyas Martin said there has been no fall-off since Allen resigned.

Jackson “takes a lot of pride in the East program in general. He knows about the history of the program, the great plays the winning,” Martin said. “He holds it to himself to keep the tradition going. He’s done a pretty good job of making a name for himself.… Many new coaches don’t make an impact, but he’s made a pretty good impact on the team.”

There was no reason make overhauls at any one of the three programs, and all three say they continue to have a relationship with their former coach.

One of Jackson’s assistants is AJ Allen, Ron’s youngest son. And Jackson and Ron Allen, who is now coaching at Sunrise Christian Academy, text frequently.

Steven and Racine talk a lot, too. He’s often in the stands cheering.

“He’ll text me after games, we communicate,” Steven said.

“We talk a lot. He’s very supportive. I’d be silly not to (reach out to him). When he was still teaching here last year, I’d get al ot of advice on everything.

“But he lets me coach. He wants me to do my own thing.”

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachadwick.