Paul Conlin has been on the bench for Shelbyville basketball for six years. When the varsity coaching positioned opened up recently, he was asked to move down to the end of the bench and take the helm.
“It’s something I have been working for,” Conlin said. “It just happened for me.”
Conlin has been watching and learning, and assisting as a coach’s protege for a lot longer than six years.
Conlin grew up with a mom and a dad who were teachers and his father, Steve Conlin, has coached multiple sports over the years, including as the head coach for varsity basketball in Mattoon. He has been involved in coaching for 40 years.
“I developed a love for it,” Conlin said. “I was the water boy for his team when he coached Chris Hollander, Kevin Trimble, Josh Rutledge, and Jason Morgan.
Paul Conlin’s uncle was also a coach for years. Mike Conlin, a modern-day Pied Piper, calling a host of young athletes to join cross country at Cowden-Herrick, coaxing a generation of students to athleticism.
Paul Conlin played sports in high school. He played basketball, baseball and golf and competed in track.he attended lake Land College and then eastern Illinois University.
While he was at Lake Land, he started coaching. He was a volunteer assistant at Mattoon Middle School in baseball, basketball and track. When his father was 8th grade basketball coach, Paul Conlin, age 20 and attending EIU,, was the 7th grade coach.
“I was very lucky,” Conlin said.
Conlin did student teaching at Shelbyville, social studies. There was no immediate position, but a couple of years later, they remembered him and gave him a call.
“I loved being there,” Conlin said.
Conlin admits that basketball is his favorite sport, so he thinks basketball, has an approach and is already positing what could be next year.
“I always believe that in offense or defense you go to your strengths,” Conlin said. “That’s based on personnel. You have to have adaptability. That’s where programs succeed.”
Conlin explained that college programs recruits for their system.
“In high school you have to be able to adapt to what you have,” Conlin said. “ We have a general idea of what we have coming back. It’s exciting. We have upperclassmen, leadership and role models. We have a good core group of juniors and seniors and we can build on a rich history.”
Sometimes in high school, some of the best players are walking the hall instead of in the gym.
“I’m optimistic we’ll get guys out that didn’t play last year,” Conlin said. “If you want to be committed and work hard, enthusiastically, the door is open to give it a shot. The goal is to move forward, keep the kids interested and involved, passion, plus work ethic.”
Whatever the roster, Conlin is looking for a team that is quick, hard-nosed, and fast paced.
“We will have the ability to move the ball,” Conlin said. ‘We’ll push it and at the same time work the half-court. We have guys who can create shots and are quick. Our strength is we can shoot, push the ball and the incoming seniors have shown what they can do.”
Even though Conlin was just announced about 10 days ago, he has been talking with other coaches and creating a schedule for the players to train independently, if need be, because of the virus crisis.
With the stay-at-home order extended until May 30, practices and contact days with students are forbidden for coaches.
“With the quarantine, the summer is going to be tough,” Conlin said. “We are not in school and there is no face-to-face.
Conlin sees a similarity between teaching and coaching.
“Teaching and coaching is the same, developing relationships whether teaching in a classroom or a gym,” Conlin said. “I still have relationships with players I coached when i was in college. I think that creates an environment of trust and that’s how programs succeed.”
Conlin has thought about a guiding principle for the program he is inheriting.
“This is a special place,” Conlin said. “I think we will ‘Play hard in the present to honor the past.’”