By Chris Parsons / Staff Writer
KNOX CENTRAL — As of Monday, Brian Evans is now the new, and old, coach of the Knox Central Panthers basketball team.
Evans was relieved of his duties earlier in the summer and rehired Monday after the Knox County Board of Education had completed the hiring process, giving the reigns back to Evans as the summer hoops period begins to draw to a close.
With the news that he had his old job back, Evans was excited to be back to work and admitted his team has a lot of ground to cover when it came to catching up on what they’ve missed.
“I’m just excited and happy to be back at it,” Evans said. “I’m excited to be able to get back to work with the guys and get some things going that we need to work on in the gym.
“We’ve got a great group of guys here, both in the gym and outside of it, so I’m happy that I get to lead them into battle,” he added. “We’re going to have to hit the ground running and try to catch up on some of the stuff we have missed over the past few weeks.”
Evans guided the Panthers to a 17-14 mark this season en route to a 51st District Championship win over Barbourville. The Panthers finished 9-8 against 13th Region foes, while they were 3-2 in district showdowns.
Evans’ squad fell to North Laurel in the opening round of the 13th Region Tournament in a 49-47 nail-biter that went down to the wire.
The good news for Evans is that he didn’t lose a ton of talent to graduation, but he did lose guys that played significant minutes in Tobie Merida and Jacob Wilburn. With three juniors and five sophomores set to return, the cupboard is stocked with plenty of talent for Evans to choose from.
“I really think we have a great nucleus of kids here as far as building a team,” Evans said. “A lot of our young kids have been through some battles and they’ve had success at the middle school level, which helps when they get to the varsity level.
“We’ll be able to do some things on the floor that we like to do and I think we’ll have some size again,” he added. “The big thing is getting in the gym and taking advantage of the time we have left in the summer season.”
One of the things Evans said he expects to focus on now and when the players return for the start of school is conditioning and strength. After his squad suffered from a rash of injuries last season he said it’s vital to come in ready to play physically as well as mentally.
After his squad went 10-2 in games where the entire team was on the floor, Evans said there’s no telling what could have happened had the Panthers been able to go injury-free all season.
“I’m hoping we can come in and get stronger and maybe get in better shape so maybe we can avoid the smaller, nagging injuries,” Evans said. “Looking back on last year, it can be a good teaching tool as far as what can happen if you get in really good shape and maybe avoid the kind of injuries we suffered.”