Coaching the ‘principals’ of the game on and off court
Tahoe-Truckee High School principal and recently named boys’ basketball coach Dennis LeBlanc sees his team as a family.
“To me, coaching is the unique opportunity to develop a real sense of family and to teach values,” LeBlanc said. “I want to teach them the good values which carry over and help you to be successful in life.”
LeBlanc, TTHS principal for nine years, coached varsity and junior varsity basketball at Wilcox High School in Santa Clara for 20 years, starting in 1966.
He replaces former head coach Mike Flohr, who left Truckee for a position in Napa, Calif., last spring.
Flohr led a Wolverine team, which had a .500 season, to a double overtime state championship victory against North Tahoe last February in Reno.
LeBlanc was first a history teacher, then an assistant principal.
When he was named vice principal at Wilcox, he had to quit coaching due to conflicts.
“I have a lot of respect for the game of basketball,” LeBlanc said.
“But as a coach, I’ve always felt the most important thing is to teach the kids how to be successful. When you do that, it’s amazing; all of a sudden, the wins come.”
Having coached many teams to playoffs and sectionals (the California equivalent of state championships), LeBlanc knows it takes a lot of hard work to have a successful team.
“I tell the kids, ‘when you think you’ve done everything you possibly can, you’ve done about 10 percent of what you can do.'”
An issue of which LeBlanc is aware is whether the players will see him as the disciplinarian principal or the value-instilling coach.
“I’ve been a friendly face on most occasions. Sometimes not so friendly a face.
“I’ve dealt with them in many different ways and now, all of a sudden, I’m the guy in the gym with them two and a half hours a day. It’s a little different,” he said.
Junior standout and starter Mark Logan said he has already learned a lot from LeBlanc’s coaching skills.
“We’ve learned that we need to work together,” Logan said. “If we play together we’ll be a lot better ball team.”
On LeBlanc’s list of goals for the team is winning league and earning a trip to the playoffs in February.
So will familiarity breed contempt or will the players view LeBlanc as a coach?
“I’m working hard to make it a positive thing. In the past few days I’ve had the feeling we’ve started to get over some hurdles. I think if we continue to grow like we are – and that includes me, too – we’re going to develop a basketball family.”
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