Schlarman hires Tidwell
DANVILLE — For his next coaching gig, Gary Tidwell won't need to move anything except his office.
The former Danville High School boys' basketball coach will relocate from one part of Danville to another for the next school year. While keeping his day job teaching P.E. at DHS — where he was head coach the past six years — he will take over the boys' basketball program at Schlarman Academy.
The Hilltoppers have had nine sub-.500 seasons in a row since another former Danville High coach — Gene Gourley — guided them to a 22-9 mark in 2002-03.
Tidwell, 39, originally wasn't anxious to return to coaching, which he has done for 17 consecutive seasons as either the head or as an assistant coach.
"I was looking to take a sabbatical," said Tidwell. "Coaching is an emotional sport. There are a lot of highs and lows. We started an Upper Bound Basketball League at our church (Calvary Baptist) six years ago. I was looking to be more involved with that and volunteering with my son's team."
After considering Schlarman's overture for three weeks, Tidwell decided, "it was a good fit."
With sons ages 9, 7 and 2, what he wanted most was to not uproot them from the only community they've known as home.
"Our family is well-established here," said Tidwell, who earned his 100th victory as a head coach last December at Mattoon. "It would have been selfish of me to look elsewhere."
He is familiar — and comfortable — in a private school setting. He coached three years at Decatur St. Teresa (1996-99) and attended college at Olivet Nazarene University, in Bradley.
"I see this (Schlarman job) as a ministry opportunity," Tidwell said. "This experience will give me freedom for spiritual growth and the development of athletes.
"God has blessed me with gifts and talents to share with others."
Tidwell will meet with returning Schlarman basketball players for the first time this morning. The Hilltoppers had one underclassman (junior Austin Calhoun) earn all-conference recognition (special mention) last season.
Tidwell played at both Pana and Prairie Central while in high school.
"I grew up with small-school basketball," he said. "Basketball, in general, is the same game. You teach the fundamentals and incorporate solid defense.
"I'm looking forward to my new opportunity, looking forward to making a difference in the lives of kids."
He didn't have the chance to watch any Schlarman games last winter and enters with no pre-conceived ideas.
"It starts with the mindset that you have to work hard and develop leadership within the group," he said. "If the attitude is right and the work ethic is there, you can do more than you expect."
Assistant Jerry O'Neill was retained from former coach Pat Kelly's staff. Paxton-Buckley-Loda graduate Tyler Overstreet will also be a basketball assistant next winter. Kelly was Schlarman's head coach for eight years.