A conference championship in just your first year as a high school head coach.
Not bad - and at the young age of 23 to boot.
That's what has happened this week for Belpre's Jordan Thornhill, who has his Golden Eagle boys basketball team within a win of an outright Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division crown when it hosts Waterford tonight.
Belpre clinched a tie for the title Tuesday with a 51-31 victory at Eastern to move to 14-5 overall and 13-2 in the TVC Hocking standings.
There was some concern, though, when Thornhill was put up for the job about handing the reins of the Belpre boys basketball program over to a then-22 year old, even if he was the Golden Eagles' all-time career scoring leader.
''But a lot of people - especially athletic director Ken Cox and the school board members - had trust in us,'' said Thornhill's top assistant Todd Engle.
Thornhill came into the position, stating he ''wanted to change the mentality'' of the players, since ''really in the last five or six years here at Belpre, losing has been embraced in a lot of sports. But we're trying to change that, and it starts here with basketball - being a competitor, doing what it takes to win a ball game.
''But more so, it's preparing. I talk about, 'If you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.' So we get it done in practice, and it translates to the games.''
Belpre was only 7-13 last year, but the win total has doubled this season with the main factor being defense, giving up on average in the mid-40s compared to the 70s last year.
''That's a big swing,'' said Thornhill, ''but then defense is a big thing for us. We pride ourselves on our defense - it's won us more games than our offense.''
In addition, ''having a couple kids that we didn't expect when I got the job was a plus,'' said Thornhill. Nick Therriault, a 6-2 sophomore, was a move-in from Myrtle Beach. Thornhill knew Belpre soccer standout Dakota Hoffman ''would come out, but didn't know were he'd be,'' but added the 5-11 junior ''has been a delightful surprise.''
Meanwhile, 5-10 sophomore Jake Ullman ''has done some really special things on both ends of the floor, playing great defense and really lighting it up on offense,'' said Thornhill. ''But we've got six or seven pretty good players (including 6-4 juniors Ryan Leasure and Bryce Pittenger inside and 6-1 Drew Nestor, the only senior on the team.).''
Engle, a perfect fit as well as foil for Thornhill, is a veteran coach, who has been a steadying influence on Thornhill.
''Jordan's got that knack of making people feel what he feels,'' said Engle. ''He's a great motivator, his pre-game speeches are out of this world and he's really good at getting a kid's juices flowing. But he's just a passionate person and wants his players to be too.''
''I just think that Jordan's done an outstanding job, and has shown that he's going to be a great coach because of his passion for the game,'' said Engle. ''And the kids feed off that passion.
''He's definitely a keeper. I think they got this one right. I'm telling you, Belpre basketball is on the way back and they hired the perfect guy to do just that.''
Contact Steve Hemmelgarn at email@example.com