There’s one blemish holding McEachern basketball coach Mike Thompson from calling this season a great one, and it comes in the loss of a playoff game.
“When something doesn’t end like you pictured it, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth,” he said. “It’s the one thing that kind of sticks.”
Thompson, the Marietta Daily Journal 2017-18 Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, led the Indians to the quarterfinals of the GHSA Class AAAAAAA state basketball tournament before falling to eventual state runner-up Norcross.
“We felt like we were in good shape,” Thompson said. “We got punched in the mouth and we didn’t really get back.”
Expectations loomed over the season as McEachern maintained a spot at No. 1 in the state for most of the season. The Indians finished 26-3.
“The kids got a lot of attention this season,” Thompson said. “We may have looked a little much at the end result and not at the process.”
But all hope is not lost for Thompson and this team, and he knows that. Thompson is only graduating two seniors from a roster that was made up of 13 juniors
“We have some really good kids, so improvement can be marginal,” Thompson said. “But when you have eight or 10 of them that are going to be better, you’re going to be better.”
The Indians will return names like Isaac Okoro and Sharife Cooper, who were standouts throughout the season. Thompson hopes the playoff loss will serve as a reminder to those returning.
“We have a good reminder, a point of reference, and it will hopefully be one in the long run,” he said.
Thompson, like many coaches, is still perfecting a way to keep his players from looking too far ahead and letting the ultimate goal slip from their hands.
“Day 1, get better. Game 1, get better. Not looking too far in advance, that’s the thing to do,” Thompson said. “You’ve got to teach them to enjoy the ride of getting there.”
Thompson has the Indians at four straight seasons with a playoff appearances, leading them to nine in his time as coach.
While it wasn’t the way he wanted to end the season, Thompson is appreciative of the opportunity to coach his players through this.
“I love the game, but I also like to see kids deal with the kind of stuff we’re having to deal with,” Thompson said. “Fight through some adversity.”
Being head coach for 10 seasons has its advantages, and one of those is when his former players comes to McEachern with their families to pay him a visit.
“To watch these guys, grow up, I’ve got to the see the fruits of that for as long as I’ve done this,” Thompson said. “It’s not always about the X’s and O’s.”