By Owen Gotimer
Ashburn (Dec. 29, 2014) — While studying towards his Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Media Studies at the University of South Carolina, Sean Gundry began his high school basketball coaching career as an assistant boys coach at Blythewood High School.
After earning his degree, Gundry moved back to northern Virginia where he joined the staff at his alma mater Fairfax High School as a girls assistant varsity and JV and freshman head coach on and off from 2008 through 2012.
In May 2012, Gundry — whose mom and uncles graduated from Loudoun Valley High School — was named the head varsity basketball coach of the Broad Run High School Lady Spartans.
The third year head coach has his Lady Spartans off to a 4-3 start in 2014 as they prepare for a semifinal appearance in the 2014 Maroon & Gold Classic after knocking off first year Rock Ridge High School in the quarterfinal round on Dec. 27.
Gundry – who graduated from Fairfax in 2004 – sat down with LoCoSports editor Owen Gotimer to give us the scoop: inside the huddle.
Owen Gotimer: You pride yourself on coaching student-athletes who succeed in the classroom. Why is having players excel in the classroom so important to you?
Sean Gundry: The number one rule of that for me is consistency. If you have a kid who is consistent in the classroom, at home, in their social life, on the basketball court, they’re going to be consistent when it matters in basketball. If you have a kid who is inconsistent in the classroom, inconsistent at home, you can’t expect a kid to flip a switch and be consistent on the basketball court. From a basketball perspective, it’s important to have that consistency.
We also want to be a model program. We want our kids to understand there are more important things to life than basketball. You’re not going to have kids go to college on Division I scholarships every year. You have life after basketball.
I just had the opportunity to talk to some former players, and they’re all doing great in college. They’ve moved beyond basketball because they were prepared for that. We strive to prepare them for that.
Gotimer: One of those success stories on and off the court is Mariah Leonard who just scored her 1,000th career point early in her junior year. What has it been like coaching Mariah and your other success stories over the years?
Gundry: First of all, I just want to give credit to our full team. Mariah is a piece of the team, but we’re not a one person team. We’re a 13 person team, and they all do their jobs really well and support her. Without them, she wouldn’t be where she is.
As far as Mariah’s concerned, she’s an absolute joy. It’s not just the basketball. She says the right things, she does the right things and it’s not fake, it’s not scripted. She’s genuinely a really good kid who works her tail off in every aspect of life.
If I had 15 Mariahs who knows what would happen. Not even the talent, just the work ethic and energy. She’s incredibly selfless. She’ll help anybody, anyway she can. We had a kid last year on our JV team come and ask her a question, and she took the time out of practice to teach the kid how to do something. She’s willing to do anything she can to help anyone around her.
Gotimer: When you started coaching back in South Carolina, you were coaching boys and now, obviously, you are on the girls side. What’s the biggest difference between and two, and what changes have you had to make to your coaching style?
Gundry: I always say the big difference for me between boys and girls is boys have to win to have fun, girls have to have fun to win. The reality is guys are so competitive, so driven, and if they’re not winning, they’re not happy. Girls have to come together – you have to have a program, you have to have a family – to put it together on the court. If there are divisions in the locker room it shows up on the court.
We had a family when I was in South Carolina, but I really like to overemphasize that on the girls side to get them to come together and believe in one another.
Gotimer: Something remaining constant through a lot of athletes’ and coaches’ career across genders and sports is a pregame routine. Do you have one?
Gundry: I eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, I try to eat lunch at the same time every day and I try to get to Broad Run at the exact same time every day no matter what time we’re playing. I have to be there at a certain time. I’m here, I’m in the door, I’m getting my stuff ready whether we’re play at 6:15, 7:30, 7:45.
I always have to have a Pepsi on the bench. If I don’t have a Pepsi on the bench my kids get concerned, I get concerned. I almost forgot one last year and one of the kids asked where my Pepsi was. I had to run to the snack bar and get a Pepsi before the tipoff.
Gotimer: Here’s a fun one. What’s the most interesting thing about you that your players don’t know?
Gundry: My last answer wasn’t fun? I’m a totally different persona away from the court than I am on the court. I love to hang out with my puppy – we have a 16-week old puppy that we just got. I love to just have family time. I love to just be the couch guy who sits there and hangs out with his family and just relaxes. I know I can get straight faced during games, but the fun, relaxed part of me comes out a lot away from the court.
Owen Gotimer is a graduate of Heritage High School in Leesburg and is currently in his senior year at Syracuse University. Follow LoCoSports on Twitter (@LoCoSports) for up-to-date news and scores from around Loudoun County.