SHELBYVILLE — A familiar name to Shelbyville basketball has been named the new boys’ basketball varsity coach — Paul Conlon.
Conlon has been the junior varsity coach the last four seasons.
Conlon replaces Matt Colston, who coached last year’s team to a 9-22 overall record and 2-5 in the eight-team Central Illinois Conference, good for sixth place.
Conlon is the son of former Mattoon coach Steve Conlon, who coached the Green Wave to its last regional championship (Class AA in the two-class system) in 1994-95 when MHS went 13-15. He coached Mattoon for five seasons 1993-94 through 1997-98 and was 29-94.
Conlon got his start in coaching at age 20 when he was the Mattoon Middle School seventh grade boys’ basketball coach, while his dad was the eighth grade coach.
“I was lucky to get the start at the age of 20,” said Paul Conlon, a 2008 graduate of Mattoon who played golf, basketball and was on the track team.
Conlon is a 2010 graduate of Lake Land and 2013 Eastern Illinois graduate. He did his student teaching at Shelbyville and was a substitute teacher for several years before being hired at Shelbyville Middle School, where he's a social science teacher.
He played basketball and golf under Bob Lockart, who will be inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in September and is currently the coach at Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg. He played baseball under current Cumberland coach Mark Jackley.
“Paul has done everything we have asked of him as an assistant coach and has been in the program for a number of years,” said Shelbyville athletics director Tony Pullen. “The best thing he has done is build relationships with the young student-athletes.”
The Rams finished with 11 players in the entire program last year.
“He has all of the kids in junior high and I have no doubt kids will come out for him," said Pullen, who said they had 15 applicants and interviewed five. “We had a good applicant pool. You look over what Conlon has done in his time here, and he has built relationships with the student-athletes.”
Conlon said of the low numbers, "Yes, I want good numbers out. That is how you build a program and sustain a program by maintaining numbers to keep being competitive. Obviously the goal with any new coach is to get guys that were maybe on the fence on playing or not. The program goal is to move forward. I tell them to build upon Shelbyville's rich and proud history. It is up to the kids whether they want to be a part of that and add to the legacy and leave their own mark on the program."
Conlon has always wanted to be a head coach.
“I have been very lucky with not only the coaches I have played for, but the coaches I have had the pleasure of working for, and with, and building relationships with them,” said Conlon. “I think that is a benefit as I have interactions with the kids in building relationships at each grade level. I learned a lot of things from a lot of intelligent people and I give credit to a lot of people that have helped me get there.”
Conlon called his dad, who has 40 years of coaching different sports at Mattoon, when he got the job.
“One of the first things I told him was I am only in this position because of him,” said Paul Conlon. “The influence he had on me was not just X’s and O’s. I learned from conversations we had. I saw him put in a lot hours when I was a kid and how serious he took it. He focused on the players and was devoted to building relationships with people. You can have a strong influence not just as a teacher, but as a coach, and you can help them develop and grow into young men.”
Steve Conlon was an assistant under Lockart.
“One of the best pieces of advice I got is when I got the job and reached out to Chris Hollender (a 1994 Mattoon graduate, who is now an assistant coach at Missouri), as he and my dad have remained close over the years. He has been a big influence on me. I saw him play at Evansville. He said, ‘Never stop learning, never stop trying to improve, but also don’t be anyone else. Make your own mark.’ Learning from guys like him, my dad, Lockart and Bob Herdes (who coached Lockart) has molded my philosophy. I know what I can bring to the table with a community and program and make my own mark and consistently improve," Conlon said.
As far as his offensive and defensive philosophy, Conlon said it always depends on the personnel.
“This year we will be guard heavy,” said Conlon, which inherits a roster that includes Kade Kull, a second team all-CIC player. “When you have that, you can make an up-tempo team and get after it a little bit more on the defensive end. It also depends on depth. I think it is always important whether you go zone or man that you have the man principles. We want to be aggressive in the zone. My main focus is man-to-man, but you have to have a secondary offense and defense.”
PHOTOS: Shelbyville falls to Mattoon 73-41
Contact Mike Monahan at (217)-238-6854. Follow him on Twitter: @monahanmikejgtc
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