Maness named coach of the yearPublished 7:40pm Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Upon taking over for his wildly successful predecessor Hughes Barber, Kirby Maness made one promise to his players. He told them on Day 1 that no matter how the season went down they would be known for two things: defense and hustle.
Maness was off by one.
After producing a 28-2 season that led to a Four Rivers Conference co-championship as well as a tournament title, Maness’ Riverside Knights were not only known for their defense and hustle, but also for winning.
Maness continued to build on the defensive foundation created by Barber, and despite the 2012-13 season being his first as a basketball coach, he was able to guide his Knights to the semifinal round of the NCHSAA 1-A East regional playoffs and earned the title of Washington Daily News Coach of the Year.
Inheriting an undersized roster, Maness was able to lead the Knights past opponents by making his team’s biggest weakness its greatest strength.
“As a coach you have to understand what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are,” Maness said. “Obviously, the weakness of our team is that we weren’t blessed with height. Our tallest player was 5’10” and she was a reserve. My tallest player that got significant playing time was 5”8”.
“I told them every game that we play we’re going to be outmanned and they’re going to be taller than us, but that was not an excuse that I was willing to except for any type of failure.”’
In basketball, one team’s mismatch on one end of the court is typically the other’s on the opposite end. However, Maness attacked with a ferocious fullcourt press that would swing the advantage in favor of his Knights throughout the entire floor.
“Our height was our weakness, so what can we do to put ourselves in position to win? We had to play defense and get out in transition,” Maness said. “I probably told them 55 times a day that were are going to be known for two things: defense and hustle.”
Maness took over a talented team that featured Four Rivers Conference Player of the Year, point guard Jalyn Brown, but conceded that he felt the pressure to fill the giant shoes left by Barber. The key for Maness, who never coached a girls’ team before, was to get his players to buy-in and hold them to the same standards he uses on the football as Riverside’s defensive coordinator.
“Hughes came here and went 29-1 and went to state his first year and then went 19-9 in a rebuilding year – 19-9 for some coaches is a great year – then he went 27-3 last year and two of those three losses where to a team that went to the state title game. It was huge, huge shoes I had to step into,” Maness said. “I came in and told them that I could treat you differently because you’re not a male athlete, but that’s a crutch. I want to coach the way I coach. I want to look out for your best interests, and I’m not going to treat you any different or have any less expectation for you then I would a male team.”