Coachspeak: Marriotts Ridge boys basketball's Mike Coughlan

February 08, 2012|By Glenn Graham | The Baltimore Sun

Mike Coughlan is a basketball junkie in the purest form. He simply loves the game and everything that comes with it.  Just how much? He was happy to see the Super Bowl come and go, so he can start seeing and hearing more about the NBA.  Since 1997, he has coached boys and girls basketball at various levels, everything from a junior varsity/assistant varsity boys coach at Howard High to a number of successful girls AAU teams.  

When Marriotts Ridge was looking for a new boys varsity coach, he jumped at the chance and has methodically made the No. 15 Mustangs a strong contender in Howard County.  Coming off an 8-16 season, Marriotts Ridge is 16-3 and 13-3 in league play -- one game back from first-place Centennial (15-4, 14-2) with three games to play in the regular season.  

An Oakland Mills grad who received a business degree at Maryland, Coughlan has taught career research and development for the past 11 years at his alma mater, Oakland Mills. As this week's Coachspeak guest, we asked Coughlan about the keys to the successful season the team is enjoying and his love for hoops.   

With three games left in the regular season and being one game behind Centennial in the standings, what would it mean to bring home the program's first county title?

I’m honestly nervous even talking about it, but it would be great. It would be wonderful.  I’m good friends with [former coach] Marcus Lewis and they had a very good team a couple years back. ... The kids are aware that the school has had plenty of success in other sports, but I showed them the other day that there’s no banners up yet for basketball.  So, if they ever lack motivation, that's something to think about.

What will it take to possibly bring home a county title and make a strong run in the playoffs?

Just being consistent. I think we’ve done that because we’ve won a lot of close games.  I’ve preached defense from Day 1. I’ve told the kids if we’re going to win, we’re going to have to defend and rebound first. And I think they realize that when we go through struggles that the defense will always be there and the offense will come around. 

After losing to Centennial early in the season, the team came back to beat the Eagles last week in the second meeting. What was the difference?

The first time we were very competitive and actually had a wide open 3-pointer to win the game at the end, but missed it. I think this time the kids were just ready knowing we had already seen them and had been competitive against them. We were even down 10 points early, but the kids didn’t panic. I just think they felt like we were just as good as they were and we had to just hang in there.

Three forwards on the team -- Sean Harrison, Connor Delaney and Sam Willsey -- have played on the school's soccer team, which has won three straight state titles. What have they brought to the team?

I told them and the other kids that I want them to bring that mentality here because once you get that taste of winning, I truly believe you can transfer it over to other kids.   Winning three state championships in a row, those kids know how to finish things off and they’ve played a big part of bringing that mentality to our group.  I made that point on Day 1, that those are the types of intangibles they can bring that can be very helpful.

What do you know about your team now that you didn't at the start of the season?

Very much that we’re a team now.  At first, Arjun [Patel] scored 36 himself in the first game and 28 the second game. Then D.J. Tucker started getting going a little bit, then Robert Davis started getting going and then B.J. Durham started going. It’s progressed, also throwing in all the other kids who bring the different intangibles, where it is a team now.  Arjun went through some struggles and I explained to him that he doesn’t always have to play well for us to win and you can do other things to help us than just score points. So I think we’ve turned into a true team.  At different times, the majority of those kids have stepped up.

What have you enjoyed most about the season?

Everything.  I love basketball in itself and just being around the kids and seeing them grow is wonderful.  And then putting together practice plans and game plans – all aspects of it. I don’t really know what to say other than everything has just been great. It’s been a lot of fun.    

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