There has been a good bit of “turn around” over the last few months at Upson-Lee High School in the coaching ranks of the Knights and Lady Knights programs. A new football coach and staff, a new softball coach and staff, and now a new Lady Knights basketball coach is starting his era in Thomaston.
Kevin Furtado was recently named the new Lady Knights head coach, and is quickly starting to put in his system. Furtado is taking over after Coach Bart Phillips left to lead the Lady Pirates’ program at Pike County High School. Over the last two years under Phillips, the Lady Knights finished with a record of 12-41 playing in Region 4 AAAA.
Phillips was not the only coach to struggle at the helm of the Lady Knights basketball program. Since 2004, the Lady Knights have finished with one winning season. In the 2005-06 season, the Lady Knight has a record of 12-7, but failed to advance out of the region tournament. In the past decade, the Upson-Lee girls basketball team has a record of 78-163, a winning percentage of 32 percent.
After nine losing seasons in a row, in steps Coach Kevin Furtado. Coach Furtado has amassed 389 career victories while coaching at LaGrange Academy, Nathaniel Greene Academy in Siloam, Tatnall Academy in Macon, Augusta Preparatory School, and Pinecrest Academy, in Cumming. Much of Coach Furtado’s success came from 1994-2000 while coaching at LaGrange Academy and Nathaniel Greene Academy. In that time period Furtado had a record of 131-45.
Coach Furtado and the Lady Knights are starting their summer workouts this week, and will also be attending some different camps this summer. The 2014-15 version of the Lady Knights return several key players from last season’s squad, including All-Region player Kiashona Carter, and upcoming 6’2” sophomore Kyjha Kendall. I recently sat down with the new coach, and here’s what he had to say;
McCard- What are your plans, goals, and expectations in your first summer with the Lady Knights?
Furtado- “It’s important for us to build a family culture on our team. This summer will be a time for me to get to know them and vice versa. It will be a chance for us to adopt a philosophy and get a game plan so we are on the same page. It gives them a chance to understand what I will expect from them. It’s a great opportunity for us to build a bond and know they are a big part of rebuilding this program, and that’s something special to be a part of.”
McCard- What were you initial thoughts when you saw that the Upson-Lee job was available?
Furtado- “I was a little shocked and happy at the same time. I have done my research and people have told me that the atheltes are here in this county. I just have to do a good job of getting them out there in the program. Many coaches around the state have told me that it would be a great place to build a program. It’s a one high school county, which is another positive. I look forward to the challenge of building something special, which is another reason why I was so happy to get this job. So far the community has welcomed me, and I’ve enjoyed learning my way around Thomaston. I’m just excited to be here.”
McCard- Nine losing seasons in a row; what will it take to turn this program around?
Furtado- “We have got to get 100 percent of the players and parents to buy-in into what we are trying to do. I know that for some of these players I will be their third coach in four years, but I will need them to be the back bone of the team, and to be a part of the team which started the turn around in the program. We need a good connection from the top to the bottom. We have got to get our feeder programs going in the right direction. We need to get high character, basketball knowledgeable coaches in the feeder programs to help these young girls improve and work on fundamentals at younger ages.”
McCard- You’ve coached a lot in the GISA (Georgia Independent School Association). What are the biggest differences you expect to see on the court in the GHSA, rather than other private school leagues?
Furtado- “I think overall the athleticism is much better in the GHSA. I have been around many GHSA programs as well over the last few years, and there is a ton of talent in Georgia. The actual basketball skill level differences are not as great from GHSA to GISA. I think teams which play together, with good fundamentals, and good defense will have success at any level.”
McCard- We will be in a new region next season. What do you know about these new Region 2 opponents?
Furtado- “Well obviously Mary Persons will be very good. They were a top 10 team in the state last season and won over 20 games. Other than that, I don’t particularly see any one team that stands out above the others. All of the teams in the region had some success last season. It’s a really strong region from top to bottom. Our goal is to be one of the top four teams at the end of the season and region tournament, giving us a chance in the state playoffs. Our goal is to build our program to to the point that’s where we are year in and year out, and it starts with the players on this team this year. For that to happen, it has to start now, this summer. We have to be dedicated to getting better everyday. A huge objective for me is to have a high commitment level from both players and parents.”
Wes McCard can be contacted at (706) 647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.