Webb stresses school and family
Arriving in Tonganoxie after six years at Sumner Academy, Mike Webb knew that the expectations would be high. Sumner traditionally has strong basketball teams. Tonganoxie hasn't had a .500 season in seven years.
"Everybody's hungry for a good basketball team," Webb said.
While this season has been fraught with early disappointments, Webb and others affiliated with the team remain upbeat. Optimism is a trademark for Webb, who is quiet and collected when you talk to him, even after a loss.
When the Chieftains finished fourth at the DeSoto Tournament, he was initially discouraged. But he sat down and made a list of positive things that had happened and shared the list with the team in practice.
The players have noticed his attention to what they've done correctly in addition to what they've done wrong, according to Kyle Rodell, junior guard.
"He's a real big encourager," Rodell said.
During practice, Webb starts with what the players have done well then moves to what they need to work on, Rodell said. Last week, Webb sat down with the team and opened the floor to any and all comments.
He's just as accepting of his assistant coaches according to David Walker, boys junior varsity coach.
"He's extremely open-minded," Walker said. "He allows for a lot of input. He always listens to what we have to say."
That openness and approachability apply to Webb's full-time jobs as well. He taught social sciences and science while working in the Sumner school district. He also coordinated student internships part of his current responsibilities as vocational counselor at Tonganoxie High School.
From his windowless office in the high school, he counsels students, helps kids investigate career paths, arranges training internships, sets up on-the-job training experiences and makes arrangements for students who study part time at area vocational technical schools.
His heart, however, is in coaching.
"It's always been my dream to be a boys high school head basketball coach," Webb said.
Webb played basketball at Basehor High School. He played college basketball at Southeastern College, Lakeland, Florida.
He started coaching a junior varsity team at Evangel High School in Lakeland while he was in school. He's also been the girls junior varsity coach at Maranatha Academy, Shawnee.
And his most recent experience at Sumner was invaluable. Webb said the opportunity to coach under the tutelage of Randy Springs, Sumner boys basketball coach, was an outstanding learning experience.
Walker said Webb is doing well in his first two months as a head coach.
"He's making a great transition from being an assistant coach to being a head coach," Walker said.
With years of experience as an assistant and 25 years removed from high school, Webb feels confident in his abilities to lead a team.
"I worked a long time to get to this position," Webb said. "I don't have a long time left."
That sense of immediacy comes through in his competitiveness.
"You'd think he's a real quiet and mild guy," Rodell said.
But in practice, Webb can and does raise his voice.
"He knows when it's important to make his point," Rodell said.
As Webb stands on the sideline during a game, intensity and concentration show as he stares at the floor, shouts direction to the players or coaches a player who has come off the court.
Surprising to some perhaps, then, is his lack of negative feelings about Tonganoxie, a high school rival. Even though he still has friends in Basehor, and his mom and sisters live there, he proudly wears red and white.
"With me, there's no rivalry," Webb said. "I'm a Chieftain now, no longer a Bobcat."
The former Bobcat is married. He, his wife Shari and his daughters, Ashley, 12, and Alison, 5, live in Olathe.
His father passed away in July, and Webb has dedicated his season to him and Webb hopes each of the kids finds someone to dedicate their season to as well.
Family is only one of the priorities he stresses for his players. He told the team that they should be concerned about their morals, family, schoolwork and then basketball.
"That was one thing that really impressed me," Rodell said.
Webb said extracurricular activities, including basketball, are important to the development of high school students.
"Education would be at a loss if they ever cut out extracurricular activities," Webb said
He said he wants to see his players develop as human beings.
"My investment is with these young people," Webb said.
And, he said he wants them to develop as basketball players too.
"There's some talent there," Webb said. "They want to improve. They want to get better. They're very teachable."
It's not how you begin; it's how you finish, according to Webb. The team has lost some games, but will continue to play hard.
"We may not win every game, but we're going to provide an exciting brand of basketball," Webb said.