Knill steps back, team steps up N. Carroll coach blends talents

February 08, 1993|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Staff Writer

From his high school basketball days at Sherwood in Montgomery County to his current duties as coach of the North Carroll girls basketball team, Greg Knill has been able to blend into the background.

But Knill, 28, can hide no more.

He is putting up some impressive numbers at North Carroll and is the most successful high school basketball coach in Carroll County right now.

Knill is 42-21 in three varsity seasons after breaking in with a 20-0 record in one junior-varsity campaign at the school.

And he's done it all very quietly.

"I'm laid-back," said Knill. "I let the kids be who they are and develop that into a good, solid picture. I tell them we're putting together a puzzle. I let them know they may have to change a little and do some things they don't like but I make sure everybody gets a chance to excel at some time."

The Panthers coach likes to spread the recognition around the team and makes it very clear he doesn't want players to be jealous of each other.

That philosophy was result of a bittersweet playing career at Sherwood.

"A lot of my experiences in high school were not that positive," said Knill. "We were close to being a good team but never pushed ourselves over the hump because of squabbles. We didn't play together."

Under that kind of atmosphere, Knill was left to do the "dirty work."

"I was an average player who usually drew the other team's top player to defend against," he said. "I played against Chuck Driesell [former Maryland player], Cliff Rees [former Navy starter] and Kenny Johnson [former Virginia player]."

A combination of the dirty work and the fighting among his teammates took its toll on Knill by his senior year.

"I didn't think basketball was fun in my senior year," he said. "I made up my mind that I would never let that happen to players on any team I coached. I want my players to have a good, positive experience."

The North Carroll coach has been known to spend 20 minutes after a game talking to a disgruntled player.

"We [Knill, JV coach Mary Davis and freshman coach Lloyd Ford] have tried to establish a program so we don't have dropouts," he said. "Everybody has strengths and weaknesses and we work on making them a team."

The low-key coach said he has been fortunate to work with four players from their freshman to senior seasons.

Michele Jeffery, Ashlee Douglas, Francine Hewes and Kara Tedder were on Knill's 20-0 JV team and now they're the varsity leaders.

"All four seniors have the ability to understand and think what I'm thinking before I do it," he said. "When you have players like this you can step up even further than you originally planned."

For instance, Knill's goals since he took over the varsity have been to have fun and advance one step further each season.

The Panthers went to state 2A regional finals last season. Making a trip to the final four is the goal this year.

That goal is within reach with the likes of Jeffery and Douglas on the team.

But what happens next year when they are gone?

"If you play defense, you can win even if you're young and inexperienced," said Knill. "You have to stop people. I believe in a strong man-to-man defense first."

If North Carroll keeps winning at its current pace, there are certain to be some opportunities for Knill to move up the coaching ladder.

But he said he won't be looking to leave the school unless "a big offer or something comes along."

"As long as the kids are getting along and I'm having fun, I'll stay."

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