While at Webster County, Carwile led the Trojans to one of only eight 20-win seasons in school history. Perhaps more impressive, he coached Pike County Central, a program that posted a 44-71 mark the four years prior to Carwile’s arrival, to a 15-11 record in 2011, piloting the school to its first region semifinal appearance in eight seasons. In only two seasons at Lyon County, Carwile led the Lyons to the Promised Land, a Kentucky High School basketball Sweet 16 appearance.
Over the last decade, Carwile has also coached some of the most talented players in Kentucky high school basketball:
- At Webster County, Carwile coached Robert Pendleton, who connected on 290 treys in his career, making him one of the top three-point shooters in Bluegrass basketball history.
- While at Lyon County, the 1994 Murray State grad coached Ty Rogers, who led the state in scoring at over 32 points per game. Of course, Rogers went on to a stellar career at WKU, culminating in a 26-foot buzzer-beater to defeat Drake in the First Round of the 2010 NCAA tourney.
- In 2011 at Pike County Central, Carwile coached another of the state’s top scorers in Hobo McCoy, now a senior at the University of Pikeville.
While Grayson County’s basketball history is not bereft of a winning tradition, the Cougars are oftentimes left looking up at the other, more legacy-laden schools in the Third Region. But where other coaches might see an insurmountable challenge, Carwile spies opportunity.
“I think it’s a gold mine,” Carwile enthusiastically said about the Cougars’ basketball program. “You have a 5A school with 1,300 kids … we have an opportunity here with 1,300 students to have a program that can win and be consistent, and have a chance to win district and region (titles) every year.
“I just think that this job has all kinds of potential. I think with the tradition they have … basketball here in Grayson County is an event, it’s something people love. And that’s one of the things I want to do, because when I was an assistant at (hoops powers) Graves County and Marshall County … (this job) kind of reminds me of one of those types of jobs, only in the Third Region.”
Coaching basketball teams, whether it be in high school, college or the NBA, is a results-driven business. And in order to achieve winning results, many times coaches have to adapt to the hand they are dealt, whether that hand be a royal flush, or a pair of deuces.
“I was very fortunate to work for Allan Hatcher (who won over 700 games in his Kentucky high school coaching career), and is, in my opinion, the best high school coach that there’s been -- of course I’m very partial to him -- but what he was able to do … he could always take players with his system, and fit the system to the players he had, and no matter what the talent was he was able to win,” Carwile explained.
“I think at some of the schools I’ve been at, although I wasn’t nearly as successful as he (Hatcher) has been, but I was able to take some of the things I learned from him (and apply those to my situation)" Carwile said. "(Such as) you have to have your philosophy about defending and rebounding, doing the little things right, but you have to (alter) your offensive and defensive systems based on the personnel you have, because in high school you can’t recruit your kids.”
Whereas a college coach is able to bring in the type of players that fit that coach’s system, high school coaches are essentially “stuck” with choosing from the existing student body, which at times can be slim pickings, making flexibility within one’s coaching philosophy a must in order to be successful in the long term.
“You have to be able to adjust (your philosophy), and (Hatcher) was as good at that as anyone, and I learned a lot from him,” Carwile said. “I think that’s what’s allowed the schools I've coached to be competitive in some tough districts and some tough regions. But, that’s what makes this job real appealing, because you have more kids to choose from and they have the tradition -- they went to the state tournament in 2009 and 2001, and in the early ‘90s.”
Building a program that competes for region titles on a yearly basis is a tough task at any school, but Carwile believes it can be done at Grayson County; by building from the floor up
“If you do things right and you build the program, and get your feeder system set up the right way, your system will enable you, in the years your talent isn’t as good as it is in other years, to still be successful,” Carwile said.
That philosophy, and the hard work that comes along with it, is what has enabled several schools in Kentucky to be successful year-in-and-year-out on the basketball court, regardless of enrollment, region switches and overall talent level.
“I know when I was at Mason County and Graves County (as an assistant coach) just that name on the front of the jersey meant about 10 or 15 points,” Carwile said. “When we walked in places, even if we didn’t have the talent we had in the past, people were like ‘oh wow,’ and I think we can do the same thing here.”
The Grayson County Cougars basketball team gathered around their new coach Kelly Carwile after his introductory talk to the troups.
Coach Kelly Carwile speaks to his players in the lockerrom on Monday afternoon.