Russell takes over for Martin at Reynolds

After years of being an assistant coach, Mike Russell will finally get his turn as the man in charge as he was recently named head coach of the R.J. Reynolds boys varsity basketball team.  The post Russell takes over for Martin at Reynolds appeared first on WS Chronicle.

Russell takes over for Martin at Reynolds

After years of being an assistant coach, Mike Russell will finally get his turn as the man in charge as he was recently named head coach of the R.J. Reynolds boys varsity basketball team.  

Russell replaces Billy Martin who was head coach for the Demon for nearly two decades. Russell is a 2001 graduate of Reynolds and was a key piece of back-to-back state championship teams in 2000 and 2001. He recently sat down with The Chronicle to talk about taking over the Demons team and his goals for the future.

Q: What’s the first order of business for you?

A: The first order has been taken care of for the most part. I needed to make sure I got some good people around me on this journey. I still have a couple people I want to add to the staff, but that was the first order of business to get some good people around me. As soon as I got the position, the kids went out on spring break, so we have some catching up to do. I want to get a chance to meet with the guys and myself and we can get rolling.

Q: What were you feeling when you received the call that you were chosen as head coach?

A: I know it’s cliche, but it was one of those feelings that you can’t really put into words because I started coaching really early. I’ve been in the process of applying for jobs and even being turned down for a few positions was a learning process. The interview processes that I have been through, up to this point, really helped me out and got me prepared for this interview with R.J. Reynolds.  

I am grateful for the failures along the way, but it’s been a long time coming. I really was discouraged at one point, thinking I am doing everything necessary to get my opportunity, but I guess it wasn’t my time yet. You mix in the journey to get to that point, on top of the fact that this is my alma mater, and this is the job that I wanted out of every job I have applied for up to this point. You mix those two things in and it’s a feeling that you really can’t describe. I am overjoyed, grateful and just excited at the opportunity and possibility of what’s to come. I am just ready for the challenge.

Q: How has all of your experience as an assistant and AAU coach prepared you for this job?

A: AAU has prepared me for the head coaching job, in a sense, to be able to manage different personalities, talents and egos.  You’d be surprised at some of the egos some of these kids develop at an early age. The leadership side of it and the kids are looking at you to set the right example is another lesson I’ve learned and it’s not easy. We are all human and we all lose our poise from time to time.  

Even my time as an assistant, I’ve gotten the opportunity to coach under some really good coaches. Just sitting back and observing and picking up some things from some great basketball minds. I have incorporated some of that in some of the stuff that I like to do as a head coach. In AAU and as an assistant, I have picked up a lot of experience and am ready to apply it in my own special way.

Q: Have you had a chance to speak to coach Martin and how do you plan on enhancing the program from where he took it?

A: Coach Martin did reach out and I was happy to hear from him. He sounded like he was in good spirits, and I could hear it in his voice that he was happy about his decision. He wished me the best and he is really confident that I will do a great job.

What we were able to accomplish back when I was in high school is not easy. Winning state championships is not easy. Even the run he had a few years ago with Mysta Goodloe, Tyreik Leach and those guys and Caden Davis, and he did some things with that team that was special. They were underdogs and to go in and make a run like they did in those playoffs was special.  

That was something that I took notice of because we’ve been looking and that’s my school. I’ve always rooted from afar because I’ve always been somewhat affiliated with another school, but at the end of the day that’s my alma mater and I’ve always rooted for Billy and his teams to have great success.

I really can’t put a definition on what I can do to enhance the program, but what I will do is make sure that the tradition stays rich. It will remain at its high level of standard, but the ultimate goal is to win state championships, we want to win conference championships, we want to have 20-win seasons, and the first part of that is I have the right guys around me as far as my staff and making sure we get our district kids.

Q: How do you feel your accomplishments as a player will translate to your relationship with the kids on the team?

A: If you remember those teams, we were really talented, and it was a lot of sacrifice that had to take place for us to be successful. I think if we can really get kids to buying into making those sacrifices, willing to see the next person to you do just as well as you do, I think that’s the culture we want to build at Reynolds.

It’s at a tough time when basketball has become really individualized, so I know I have my challenges ahead of me. I think that’s the biggest thing I am going to push toward them is the fact we were able to deal with it as a team. Those state championships are the goal, but we are not going to set our eyes on that in year 1. In year 1 it’s going to be about making sure we bring the right mentality to practice every single day, so we can set the bar on how we work. If you set the bar on how you work on day 1, that will trickle down to the sophomores, to our freshmen and to our juniors.  

Ultimately, that’s how we were able to win state championships. My sophomore year, we had Travis Holcomb-Faye, we had Rod Dunlap, AJ Steele, you had all these great guys that set the standard on how we went about things, and you had no choice but to fall in line.

Q: What would constitute a successful first season for you?

A: I can’t put it into numbers. Of course, I would love to be .500 or better, but we can come out and maybe win one more game than we won last year and that would be an improvement. I think it’s all about how we start on day 1 and how we finish.  

If I can see improvement, if I can see a certain level of accountability over the course of time, it’s just going to be some things you really can’t measure in numbers that’s going to really determine if we had a successful season or not. I think it’s going to come down to game to game, making sure we are getting better throughout the season, but if my boys show effort and we compete on a night-in and night-out basis, I’ll take whatever the outcome is.

Win or lose, as long as my boys are out there fighting and giving it their best, that’s what I consider to be a successful game. And if we can have that type of effort on a consistent basis, at the end of the season, I will say we had a successful season regardless of our record.

Q: How did it make you feel seeing all the positive feedback from your hiring?

A: It’s a tremendous feeling, it’s awesome. It lets me know how I went about my process was the right way. That was just making sure anything I did, I did it to the best of my ability and I did it with love. When I train kids, I’ll train an NBA or collegiate player the same way I will train a seven-year-old second grader and people take notice of that.

I’ve always wanted to make sure I went about things the right way. I put the kids first. I don’t need credit, I don’t need any of the things a lot of people need for validation. I just make sure I treat people the way I want to be treated. 

It was even more gratifying to see people tell me that I deserved it, I earned this. This wasn’t something that was given to me, this wasn’t something that came overnight. It was a process and I stuck with it.  

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