At this time last year, Myron Lowery had just finishedthe worst season in his 17 years as a head basketball coach, going 2-23 with the Providence High boys’ team.Across town, Olympic boys’ basketball head coach Ty Baumgardner was in the midst of his best season. The Trojans were on their way to a perfect 30-0 record and a 4A state championship.While their respective programs seemed to be going in opposite directions, Baumgardner still sought out his friend Lowery’s advice.Baumgardner specifically wanted Lowery’s insights on installing the matchup-zone defense Lowery had established a reputation for in his time at Providence and Harding.“As a coach, you are always looking for some kind of edge,” said Baumgardner, admitting he’s usually an old-school man-to-man defense guy. “Being a big defensive guy, I wanted to add something new for our team to throw out there in the playoffs. So I called coach Lowery and asked him if he could come by practice and help us (put in the matchup zone).“One day turned into another and another. We really enjoyed working together, and one thing led to another. The rest of the story just sort of happened.”After spending a lot of time talking and working with Baumgardner, Lowery, who said he was frustrated with his basketball program at Providence, decided he might like the idea of moving to Olympic.But it wasn’t until June that a teaching position opened at Olympic, giving Lowery an opportunity.Baumgardner, 44, jumped at the chance to have Lowery join his staff.“When we first talked about even the possibility, I thought he was joking,” Baumgardner said. “But when it happened, I was ecstatic. I felt like we had one of the better coaching staffs (with assistants Chea Johnson and Chris Hemphill) in the state before, but adding Myron made it even that much better.”Lowery was equally as excited about his new role as associate head coach at Olympic.“Ty showed a lot of trust in me last year, just letting me work with a team that was undefeated and went on to win the state championship,” said Lowery, who was head coach at Providence for 10 years. “As much as I loved Providence, this was a good change for me. It was just the right thing for me to do at the time.”Lowery, 47, says the move also allowed him to spend more time with his family – including daughters Zanna, 12, and Ella, 9 – at his Fort Mill home. He gets home from practices much earlier now.New season, new challenge Baumgardner and Lowery knew this season would be a challenge, with only one starter, senior guard C.J. Jackson, back in the fold.The Olympic coaching duo returned to the basics this summer and fall. “A lot of schools have a good basketball team,” said Baumgardner, whose team was 109-9 in the past four years. “But we feel like we have a great basketball program. That means we expect to reload, not rebuild every year.“Having coach Lowery has also been a huge part of that effort this year. To have two sets of eyes on everything we do has been invaluable.”Lowery saw what the tradition meant from day one.“The championship tradition means a lot here,” Lowery said. “These players take a great deal of pride in wearing the Olympic name across their chests. That plays a big role in our success. It’s fun being a part of all of it.”The Olympic tradition has kept going this season, as the Trojans were 23-6, losing in the second round of the state playoffs, despite having a younger team. Jackson played a lead role, averaging 25 points per game and entrenching himself as a Division I recruit. Clemson, College of Charleston, Northeastern, North Texas and Winthrop are showing the most interest.But new standouts also emerged, including 6-foot-5 junior forward Malik Constantine (14 points per game, 10 rebounds per game), who was on the junior varsity team last year; 6-foot-6 senior center Kenny Lemon (8 ppg, 8 rpg), who rarely got off the bench last season; and defensive stopper and junior guard Quincy Eaddy, who never played varsity before.Sophomore guard, Damari Parris, who moved from Baltimore, and junior sixth-man Jared Ray Campbell, a JV player last year, also played big roles for a team that usually goes only six or seven deep.Many games have come down to the wire, including six wins by five points or less. “We feel like if we can keep it close, we have a huge (coaching) advantage in late-game situations,” Lowery said. “We’ve been able to win a lot of tight games this year.”Close rivalsClose games are nothing new to either Baumgardner or Lowery. In 11 games, Baumgardner won six against Lowery’s Harding (1996-2003) and Providence (2003-2013) teams, while Lowery took five contests against Baumgardner’s Waddell (2001-04) and Olympic (2004-present) teams. Nearly every game was close, with Baumgardner’s teams outscoring Lowery’s squads 659-635 points.The 2004-05 season was the most memorable. Baumgardner and Olympic won two double-overtime games against Providence in the regular season before Lowery and the Panthers got some measure of revenge by winning the conference tournament final, 40-36.“I just want him to remember I am one up on him in (head-to-head games),” Baumgardner said.Coaching futureWhile Lowery said he wants to be head coach on his own again, for now he is content to be with Baumgardner at Olympic.“I’m having the time of my life here,” Lowery said. “Coach Baumgardner allows me to do a lot of things most assistants may not do. But he knows how much I care and (how) serious I take it. The whole environment around the team is great. It’s fun to come to practice every day.”The Olympic players also enjoyed playing for their two experienced leaders.“Both coaches bring something different to the table as far as their personalities,” Jackson said. “But at the end of the day, both want to win. We are definitely used to winning here. They have been a huge part of our success this year.”
Friday, Feb. 28, 2014
Baumgardner, Lowery make a winning team at Olympic
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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