Both Houston High School basketball teams will have new head coaches for the 2020-2021 season, and both are familiar faces.
After being HHS girls head coach for four years, Jim Moore will now guide the Tiger boys squad. Meanwhile, Brent Kell is back at the helm of the Lady Tigers after retiring in 2016 following a 30-year stint as the program’s leader.
The Houston board of education approved the moves unanimously at a special meeting on Tuesday of last week.
MOORE: ‘THIS IS MY HOMETOWN’
Moore (who is a math teacher at HHS) takes over a team that lost nine players to graduation and finished with a 13-12 record last season (the first winning season in several years). He replaces Rod Gorman, who departed a few weeks ago to become boys basketball head coach at Bunker.
Moore has coached high school hoops for 22 years, beginning with five as an assistant boys coach at Winona, and the past 17 as a head girls coach at Pierce City, Fair Grove, Carthage, Aurora and Houston. He compiled a 50-54 record with the Lady Tigers.
“My family and I are extremely excited and energetic about taking over the boys program,” Moore said. “This program is dear to my heart, as I grew up being a part of it. I feel I left the girls program in very good shape, and Coach Kell coming back to make sure it keeps on growing is a great asset to our school. We built the program to where it’s going to be successful for many years to come. It’s time to do the same with the boys program.”
Moore said he intends to help improve Houston’s youth basketball programs.
“Coach Gorman did a great job of restoring the high school program to a respectful level,” Moore said. “I want to pick up where he left it, and we will. However, we have to build the program at the lower levels if we want to succeed for the foreseeable future. That’s the plan!”
Moore will also be assisting Jake Brookshire in coaching at the middle school.
“That will give me the opportunity to build relationships with our players at many different levels,” Moore said. “This is my hometown. My goal is to win championships for our program and town. With our new gym being built and courts at our parks being refurbished, the excitement is high and I believe we are headed for great things in the near future.”
Unlike a coach coming in from another community, Moore will already know most of the Tigers’ players.
“There definitely is an advantage to that,” he said. “I know what our capabilities are coming in, which helps to know the direction we need to go. It all starts with building relationships with my players. They have to be able to trust me and know I’m not going anywhere, and I have to be able to trust them to work to their full potential and buy in to what we are trying to build here. I feel we are off to a great start in that aspect.
“We have a great group of boys and they are already working hard to improve.”
Moore said he’s not worried about replacing all the graduated seniors.
“I expect us to compete hard every night we take the floor,” he said. “We did graduate a good group of kids, however, the group we have coming back got to scrimmage and practice with those guys every day and now it’s their turn. With that many seniors graduating, it’s easy for our team to see there is a lot of opportunity for them to earn playing time. We have to be hungry to continue to grow our program. We have to develop team chemistry and communication skills. We are already in that process and great things are coming for our program.”
Moore has high hopes of making winning seasons the norm at HHS.
“We may start this season by flying under the radar a little, and that’s OK,” he said. “But I believe very quickly we’re getting ready to catch the attention of basketball gurus in southwest Missouri. The group we have coming back can play this game and they are ready for their opportunity.
“I can’t wait for our season to get here.”
KELL: ‘OUR GOALS WILL BE HIGH’
During his first go-round coaching HHS girls hoops, Kell compiled a record of 428-306 and guided teams to six South Central Association conference championships and two district titles. After getting out of coaching for a few years, he worked with Moore last season as an assistant coach.
Also graduate of HHS, Kell will also be substitute athletic director for Houston Schools. His second stint at the helm of the Lady Tigers will begin with a promising roster that lost nobody to graduation.
“I feel good about it,” Kell said. “I really enjoyed being Coach Moore’s assistant last year, but I’m looking forward to leading again. Taking three years off before last year seems to have recharged my batteries.”
Kell is stepping into a situation in which he’ll already be very familiar with his players and their tendencies.
“Knowing the girls already will really help in the transition from assistant to head coach,” he said. “We didn’t graduate anyone, so I will have the same girls that were starting to understand the game and were beginning to know what their role on the team was. Coach Moore allowed me to have a lot of input last year, so the girls know how I coach and my passion for the game.
“We have everyone back and the girls have a really good feel for what their teammates can do and how they can help in the team reaching its full potential. We have some good upperclassmen that will be expected to lead the way on and off the court. We played a lot of talented freshmen last year, and I expect them to feel more comfortable and confident in playing at the varsity level. We have a couple incoming freshmen that are talented and could push for playing time as well. Our practices should be very competitive every day, as players are going to be competing for playing time – and that can’t help but be a positive.”
Kell figures the Lady Tigers will continue with the up-tempo style implemented by Moore.
“We don’t possess a lot of height on this team,” Kell said, “so we will have to rely on speed and quickness to offset our lack of size.”
Expectations won’t be low for a team that appears to have the potential go a long way.
“This is a good group of student athletes and our goals will be high,” Kell said. “I expect to compete for conference and district titles and will be pushing them in the weight room, practice and games to reach those goals. We will need to play team basketball, and when we do that this group can be very competitive. I like this team a great deal and they have the potential to be special.”