By Nick Shook
Following the departure of Marlon McGaughy, the Liberty Leopards were a team without a coach for the 2011-12 season.
The job was officially filled on Monday when the school’s Board of Education approved former Champion coach Dan Bubon.
A Warren Harding graduate and former assistant, Bubon compiled a record of 60-115 in eight years at Champion, where he resigned following a 2-19 season in 2010-11. Bubon spent less than a year on the sidelines before finding another job.
“It’s a great job,” Bubon said of the Liberty position. “It’s a job that I’ve always been very interested in. When I heard theirs opened up, I talked to the people over there and they said it was a good fit … they were looking for someone that could bring a coaching staff in, which I’m able to do.”
Bubon will bring along his two assistants from Champion, Joe Christopher and Todd Beurch. He expects to speed up the tempo of Liberty’s play on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
“Coaching against them over the years, I always felt that they would play a more up-tempo style,” Bubon said. “The last few years at Champion, we had to slow down on offense and play a lot of zone, which I don’t like to do, but now we’ve got the personnel to push the ball. I’d love to push the ball.”
Bubon’s late hiring may have put his team at somewhat of a disadvantage, with summer play and open gyms having reached their conclusion. He has also had a limited amount of time to get familiar with his players.
“[I] had a chance to meet some of them,” Bubon said. “It’s tough when you get hired this late, pretty much all of the summer stuff is done. I got to meet about 14 or 15 of the kids, but a lot of them play football, so there isn’t going to be much we can do right now until school gets started. We might start out a little behind, but we’ll be OK.”
Liberty lost a good portion of their experienced players with the graduation of the class of 2011, but Bubon expects one returning player to make a major impact on the team’s 2011-12 season. Jalen Mann, a 6-foot-3 senior, will be expected to lead the Leopards both on and off the court.
“He’s really good,” Bubon said. “He averaged probably 15 points or more last year and he’s long, athletic, and I think this will be a really big year for him … He’s the one everyone worried about when playing against Liberty.”
With Bubon’s arrival, changes will surely be made within the program. But for a team that lost by only a point in the first round of the tournament, the amount of necessary adjustments may be minimal.
“Looking from the outside, you don’t know everything that goes on there, so I dont know that there was a whole lot broken,” Bubon said. “You always want to get better faster … hopefully they can adapt to our style of play.”