After recent ugly history, Baker has Parkville sitting pretty at 9-1 Dramatic turnaround: Rookie coach Steve Baker took over a team that had lost 40 of its past 42 games. Now the Knights lead the league.

January 18, 1996|By Rich Scherr | Rich Scherr,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It was a hot summer's day in August when Steve Baker got his first glimpse of the Parkville High basketball team.

The new coach had assembled his players for an informal pick-up game, and the Knights were looking every bit the team that had lost 40 of their previous 42 games.

After watching mercifully for several minutes, a coaching friend rendered his opinion.

"Whoever told you to take this job should be shot," laughed the friend.

Now, nearing the midway point of the season, it's Baker, 30, who's getting the last laugh. After last night's 68-48 victory over Patapsco, the Knights are 9-1, including 3-0 in the Baltimore County Quick Shooters Division. It has been an incredible turnaround for sure, but one Baker planned from the first day of practice.

"People were telling me that if we won eight to 10 games it would be a great year," said Baker. "In my mind I was saying, 'No way, eight to 10 games is a losing season.' I told our guys what was being said about us, built it up and up, and soon they were just really hungry to win.

"We've taken our lumps and now it's time to give them back."

Baker is no stranger to turnarounds.

As an assistant at Loyola College two years ago, he watched coach Skip Prosser turn a 2-25 squad into an NCAA tournament qualifier.

Baker admits that a lot of his coaching philosophy this season is based on what worked for Prosser. He first gave each player a college-style playbook, with pages stressing team goals and the keys to success.

And so far, the results have been impressive.

After hanging tough in pre-season scrimmages with city powers Southern and Lake Clifton, Parkville's nine victories have come by an average of 22 points.

The Knights aren't the most talented team in the league, but they're quick, scrappy and hungry. In a down year for traditionally strong divisional foes like Dundalk, Milford Mill, Overlea and Woodlawn, their hustle is taking them to new heights.

Forward Paul Alderman, a 6-foot-4 senior, averages 13.5 points and 7.9 rebounds to lead the team, but six others are averaging better than seven points per game.

Baker's motto is "Play hard and play together." And that has helped a team that was in disarray last season.

"Last year, sometimes we played scared," said Alderman. "Now we're coming out with confidence, we're playing as a team and we believe in ourselves."

As the Knights continue to win, their confidence is ballooning. Their remaining schedule includes just one team with a winning record as of yesterday.

Come playoff time, they could be the surprise team, but for now, getting a taste of success is enough.

"It's great to win," said Dan McGraw. "You can have a bad day and somebody else will pick you up. You won't feel as bad because you didn't blow the game."

Baker sees a big future for his team.

"I told one of our players that there's only one team on our schedule that can beat us," said Baker, "and that's Parkville."

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