BY MELANIE BUCK –
New Mena High School Senior Boys Basketball Coach Aaron O’Brien has his formula for success well mapped and intends to build the program to exceed all expectations. Hard work and dedication seem to be the key ingredients.
O’Brien attributes his reason for coaching to Jack Bridges, his own high school coach at Lakeside High. “Just the way he dealt with kids, and with me, he took me under his wing and it manifested from that,” said O’Brien. His senior year was spent at Lake Hamilton with Coach Richard Payton, “one game he was wrapping my ankle and he said, you know Aaron, you should think about coaching…and I love it.”
Over the last 19 years, O’Brien has worked as head coach at Shirley High School for three years, five years as assistant coach at Fountain Lake, and the past eleven years as head coach at Brinkley, where he also coached senior high girls.
“My favorite group to coach is grades 7-12, they just love the game,” O’Brien stated. If you work a group all the way through 7-12, by the time they’re seniors, you just kind of direct, because they’ve learned your system. Kids are sponges…you just have to keep them focused.”
O’Brien is no stranger to the play-offs, taking Fountain Lake to the quarter-finals once and Brinkley hit the quarter-finals and the semis.
In addition to being head of boys’ basketball, O’Brien will also coach tennis and teach Civics and Economics at MHS.
When asked about his plans for the upcoming season, O’Brien stated, “We’re going to utilize the weight room quite a bit this year. I coach and teach a more aggressive style of basketball, both offensively and defensively and hopefully the personnel matches the style so that’s what we’re working on now. That’s my goal for this year, is to incorporate what I want done and get the most out of it, it’s a building process.”
He added, “We have quite a bit of skill work left to do. These boys are hungry and are working hard and have good attitudes. They work really hard and are doing everything I ask them to. That’s all I can ask for right now.”
O’Brien realizes they are up against tough competition this year but is ready to meet the challenge. “The conference we’re going to be in is really tough. But the thing is that they can only put five boys on the court at one time. We just have to outwork them, and outsmart them, and outplay them.”