New Olentangy girls basketball coach Mike Daniels has some large shoes to fill. It’s a daunting task, but one that he’s eagerly embraced.
Olentangy has won league titles in five out of the last seven years and earned a spot in the district finals in six out of the last eight seasons, accumulating 20 wins in the tournament over that stretch. Olentangy has won 20 games in back-to-back seasons, including 22 in the last campaign.
John Feasel, who ran Olentangy girls basketball for the last 13 years, accumulated a 176-126 record over that span, which included a 139-35 record over the last seven seasons.
“Coach Feasel has done such an amazing job with that program,” Daniels said. “Since I’ve been there, it’s been overwhelming — not the coaching part, but everything else (that he did).”
So, it’d be easy for a new coach taking over a program with that much success to try to continue to run the program the same way as the predecessor.
But, Daniels wants to go with what he knows.
“I’ve basically said that I want to come in and run the program, bring in my own staff and have complete control,” Daniels said. “My philosophy is, if I’m coming in I have a new system. I want to make sure that everybody is on board with what I want to do, not with what somebody has been doing in the past.”
He said his system focuses on fundamentals.
“I’m old-school — in today’s game there are no more fundamentals taught,” Daniels said. “I teach positive attitudes — no negativity.”
Daniels will have to do it without Olentangy’s all-time leading scorer Kelly Meade, who has moved on to play at West Liberty University.
Olentangy lost six others from last year’s squad to graduation, including Emily Stephens, Chelsea Moore, Christina Baumann, Celeste Clark, Lydia Sanders and Desiree Dulay.
That class was a part of three straight district runner-up teams and back-to-back OCC-Capital championships.
Still, Olentangy has a lot of talent coming back. Junior Molly Delaney, who is coming off an ACL injury, should lead the charge when she’s fully healthy.
“She’s probably 75 percent of what I know that she can do,” Daniels said. “Until somebody is able to step up and take that role … we’ll just have to do it by committee.”
Seniors Julia Scott, Allison Raiff and Gillian Feasel are back, joined by Abby Feasel. Raiff and Delaney are the only two returning starters from last year’s team.
Junior Grace Pennington and the Margolies twins, Olivia and Emily — now sophomores — return to the fray.
Daniels also sees juniors Lauren Biehl and Holly Nation contributing off the bench.