I was able to meet with and interview many great Kentucky high school basketball coaches while researching for my book, How Sweet It Is. The experience proved to be so influential that it led me into the coaching profession. In an effort to learn the stories of more Kentucky hoops coaches, I am posting a series of email Q&As with a few of them as the 2019-2020 season gets rolling. From now until December 20, you can purchase copies of my aforementioned book for just $5 (75% off) through my publisher by clicking here. Thank you to Buckhorn Boys Head Coach Corey Hoskins for the responses below.
JV: Buckhorn came into the statewide spotlight a few years ago when several players on the team sported mullets for the majority of the season. Some people might have formed their own opinions, but what is the Buckhorn area really like?
CH: Buckhorn is a small, close-knit community that really pulls together. I think the last census had that there was around 150 people that actually live in Buckhorn, but when you take in the small communities around it like, Saul, Squabble Creek, Gays Creek, Altro, Barwick, Chavies, Grapevine, and Krypton we have a lot of people that really cares about us and our school. When we travelled to the Sweet 16 in 2016, we had the biggest crowd in our session for the entire tournament. Everybody for the most part is just good, country people and they really love their basketball.
JV: Your dad played in a Sweet 16 and your brother was one of the most prolific scorers in state history. Was basketball impressed upon you all at a young age? Where did you and your brother grow up playing?
CH: Yes, I think I got my first Basketball goal when I was around two or three years old. A Little Tikes goal. Basketball is a huge part of our lives on both sides of my family. My paw, which is mom’s dad, signed the first and only Division 1 Scholarship out of Buckhorn in 1962 to play at Eastern Kentucky. My dad played in the State Tournament in 1982 with M.C. Napier, I had two uncles on the M.C. Napier Final 4 run in 1984. Of Course, everyone knows my Uncle Shannon’s success at Clay County then onto South Carolina and Georgetown. As well as my brother Connor’s career in high school and now finishing up his senior season at Transylvania. It’s kind of a way of life for us.
Connor and I grew up playing mainly on the carport at our mamaw and paw’s house with our other brother, Cameron. In the summer, our dad wanted us to get up 1,000 shots a day. Most days we got that, and it was kind of a competition. Even though they were younger than me, they wouldn’t let me get one up on them. We also played basketball a lot at Chavies School as our dad was the grade school coach there.
JV: What was it like coaching your brother? How did you go about setting boundaries with him in the gym?
CH: Well, I was still an assistant at that time but there were still times when it was tough because we were brothers. Especially early on in his career. I did coach him in AAU and that helped a lot. Once we finally got to that level it was a lot of fun and made memories of a lifetime. We made it to Rupp, which is what we’d both dreamed about since we was young on that outside court at home.
JV: What were the pros and cons of that experience?
CH: Like I said, early on it was a struggle because he still looked at me as a brother, which is fine because we will always be brothers. Long after basketball is over, he will still be my brother. After we got that worked out, it was some of the best times I’ve ever had in my life.
JV: Your uncle, Shannon Hoskins, is currently the coach at Perry County Central. What are the pros and cons of being related to the coach at your county rival?
CH: Well, our family is very competitive. If we are playing anything we want to win. It is exactly like that when our teams play. Perry County Central is our main rival and we want to beat them every time we play them, and in every sport that we play them in. It makes it difficult because at the end of the day he is my uncle and we are family. We have to prepare our teams to win and that’s our job but when the horn sounds we go back to being family. Sometimes it is tough, especially if they get the better of us, but that’s part of it.
JV: Shannon was a legendary high school player. What does he say about his days at Clay County and playing for Bobby Keith?
CH: He talks about much he learned while playing for Bobby Keith and the experiences of playing in games and tournaments like the Beach Ball Classic, LIT, State Tournament, etc. Shannon was fortunate to play for two great high school coaches in, Bobby Keith at Clay and Denny Fugate at MC Napier.
JV: What influence did/does Shannon have on you as a basketball coach?
CH: Shannon has a big influence on me as basketball coach. I have learned a lot from him over the years. The biggest influence he has is that he challenges me to be a better coach for my team. I am constantly working to make myself better and my team better to be able to beat those guys because Perry County Central has won two out of the last three regional championships. I think that is the biggest way he has influenced my coaching career.
I have many mentors and people I have looked up to in coaching. Shannon is one of those. My Dad, my paw, John Noble, and Al Holland are others that I have looked up to over the years.
JV: What makes basketball in the mountains different?
CH: I think it is just different here. In a lot of ways, we have been behind the rest of the world and we use basketball as a way to level the playing field. People really get behind our teams and love the game of basketball. It is something everybody takes pride in. It’s kind of like the deal with Johnson Central’s football team this year. Everybody in the mountains got behind their team after (the controversial) comments made (ahead of the state championship game). Mountain people take up for their own.
JV: Who were some of your mountain basketball idols growing up?
CH: Ben Bowling- He was a great player and athlete. When I saw Tubby Smith recruiting him one night, it was crazy to me as a young boy.
Al Holland Jr.- I have known him all my life. His dad and my dad played together in school, and he was one of the players that would actually talk to me as young kid. He was a heck of a football player and basketball player.
Of course Shannon also was.
JV: What are the challenges and benefits of coaching at a small school in basketball-mad area?
CH: There are challenges. Facilities. Numbers. Lots of times you build for every four to five years. The benefits are that we play with our own boys and I get to know them and trust them and I think they trust me. For me, I take a lot of pride in coaching here and coaching at a small school. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
JV: What advice would you give young coaches starting out?
CH: Understand that you don’t know as much as you think you do. I am speaking from my own experience, because I thought there was nobody who knew more than me. That changed quickly. Having assistant coaching experience is great, but nothing can prepare you for being a head coach quite like being out there in it. Learn as much as you can from anybody you can. Work hard and never let yourself be out-worked. Care about your kids and make sure they know it. I am still young but I am always open to new advice and ideas.