Darling Looks to Rebuild the Lady Plainsmen Basketball Program
Saying he needed more of a test, Nick Darling is taking over the girls’ basketball program at Laramie High School.
The announcement of his hiring came last Friday in a release from LHS Athletic Director Ron Wagner.
Darling spent the past four seasons as an assistant on the Laramie boys’ staff. He replaces Rod Tyson who left after two seasons and his second stint with the program.
Darling said that when the 4A position opened up, which doesn’t happen too often, he jumped at the chance.
“I needed a little more of a challenge. I know Jim’s (Shaffer) going to be here for a while (in Laramie as the boys’ head coach), I learned a ton from him last year, and I thought, let’s just see how it goes.”
Darling was chosen over several other candidates for the position.
He said he watched the team last season and sees the potential coming up.
“That’s kind of what prompted me to throw my hat in the ring.”
Darling added that’s he’s already watched a lot of film from last season to familiarize himself with the team coming back. He said he knows that between youth and injuries, their core is still young.
“Moving forward, I think we’ve got a lot of talent, and a big thing with me is every team I’ve coached is building a team that plays for one another. I think that, to me, looked like a big challenge last year for them. Playing for one another, cheering for one another, and really being a team, so that will be my focus, for sure, right away.”
If the name sounds familiar, it probably is. Darling is no stranger to coaching in the Gem City. He has spent time coaching football, basketball, and baseball. He's been part of Laramie Youth Football and is in charge of the Laramie Middle School program. He's coached youth baseball and was the JV coach in the Laramie Rangers American Legion program last year. Plus, he helped start the 7220 traveling youth basketball programs six-plus years ago. This will be his first head coaching job at the high school varsity level.
Laramie AD Ron Wagner explained that in their search for a new coach, the committee looked at a couple of key factors, including building the program numbers up.
“It’s not just a struggle in Laramie. We know girls’ basketball, in general, is down across the state. Who can we get it that’s going to be motivated to do lots of recruiting and get girls back in the program?”
Another piece was someone who is a motivator.
Wagner said, “Somebody that’s exciting, full of energy and passionate about basketball and our community.”
He stated that those guided them in the process. The committee also looked at knowledge of the game and other things it takes to make a successful coach.
Wagner felt there were three or four candidates who met the benchmarks they were seeking.
“Coach Darling, he checked off the most boxes. He had a great interview. We had a tough decision and talked (about it) quite a while.”
Laramie was just 4-18 last season and 0-6 in the 4A Southeast Quadrant. They went 0-2 at the regional tournament and did not qualify for the state tournament.
Darling said it starts by meeting with the team to gain perspective on what their vision is, as players, for next season, and what they’re thinking.
“We’ll talk about some workouts they can do at home and how they can work on fundamentals at home. That’s about all we can do right now.”
He’s not sure when they’ll be able to meet face-to-face, let alone get in a gym or have a summer off-season because of current circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of his style of play, Darling said, “My basketball philosophy is hard-nosed defense and run-n-gun. I’d like to press as much as we can and get the ball up the floor.”
He sees more transition basketball and looks for more unselfish play, as well as having fun.
Another step Darling will undergo soon is filling out his first coaching staff. KOWB asked about what he’s looking for in potential hires.
“I’m just looking for some positive people who can mentor these girls positively… I want some strong personalities that going to be really positive and help these girls move forward.”
The Lady Plainsmen return All-Conference guard Kylee Cox. She led Laramie with 11 points per game last season as a junior. She also averaged 3.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.
Three others, who received Honorable Mention All-Conference, were senior-to-be Kayla Vasquez and juniors-to-be Janey Adair and Morgann Jensen. Adair was the second-leading scorer at 6.7 points per game and led LHS with 1.3 assists per game. Jensen was the leading rebounder at 8.4 a contest and chipped in 5.1 points per game. Vasquez added 5.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and a team-best 2.1 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.
Even though it’s his first head coaching position at the high school varsity level, Darling said it’s still basketball, and he circled back to one of his main points.
“I’m not overly concerned with this being my first time coaching the 4A level. I’m concerned with making sure these girls play as a team and play for one another. That’s really what I’m going to be focused on. Of course, we’ll be doing fundamental development, but really I just need them to understand we can’t be successful unless we play as a team.”
Darling inherits a program that has only one appearance at the Class 4A state basketball tournament in the last seven seasons.