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New era, old faces for Centurions

Posted: March 18, 2008 1:39 a.m.
Updated: May 19, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Saugus replaced both its boys and girls head basketball coaches yesterday. Derek Ballard, left, will be the boys head coach and Kent Eaton, right, is taking over the girls program. Saugus replaced both its boys and girls head basketball coaches yesterday. Derek Ballard, left, will be the boys head coach and Kent Eaton, right, is taking over the girls program.
Saugus replaced both its boys and girls head basketball coaches yesterday. Derek Ballard, left, will be the boys head coach and Kent Eaton, right, is taking over the girls program.
It's the start of something new for Saugus basketball.

Well, sort of.

Monday afternoon at Saugus High the Centurions introduced new basketball coaches Derek Ballard and Kent Eaton with Ballard taking over the boys program from Jeff Hallman and Eaton now piloting the girls squad replacing Eric Olsson.

While the coaches are new to the head coach title, they both come from in house and have coached at Saugus for at least the past three years.

Yet, while each have Centurion blood, they each come with a different philosophy to reach the same end goal: compete for league championships.

Principal Bill Bolde and athletic directors Kevin Miner, Rich Bahr and Mark Overdevest all had a hand in the hiring process and were more than pleased with their new coaches.

With the new budget cuts posing a new challenge, Bolde said it was nice the hiring team didn't have to look far to find suitable replacements.

"We don't have a teaching position to fill, but even if we had the luxury of looking at coaches from around the state and even the country, we would have come up with these two," Bolde said. "I feel extremely blessed to have Derek (Ballard) and Kent (Eaton) on our campus already. These guys have been here, they are well liked and I trust them."

Ballard will assume the varsity boys head coaching position after serving as the JV coach for the Centurions the last three years and as the varsity bench coach for the same duration.

As news started to trickle out that Hallman was resigning, Ballard, the so-called "heir apparent" quickly made his presence known that he was the man for the job.

"Once Jeff (Hallman) made it official, Derek (Ballard) was knocking on my door," Bolde said of Ballard who has worked with more than one previous Saugus head coach. "He is a history of Saugus basketball, but he has his own ideas and is his own man. I like that and now we need to move forward."

While Ballard has served for three years under Hallman, and two previous years in 1999-2000, Ballard comes in with expectations of a different brand of basketball and a confidence exuding from his personality.

"I want to reinvent the wheel and do something special," Ballard said. "Reinventing the wheel is going to come down to our strategy and our motto, 'outwork, out-hustle and outlast.' We will be exciting to watch and we will look to be pure hustle and togetherness."

Ballard is also the first to admit that his brand of basketball "is not for everyone" and has some "high demands" for the players.

"It will be full court, up and down basketball and we will wear down the other team," Ballard said.

Ballard's style comes from previous coaches and has been a proven winner. He was 10-0 in the Foothill League last year as a JV coach and will look to continue that winning tradition at the varsity level.

"I think a lot of coaches, when they take over programs, come in with lofty expectations, but I feel as my ability as a coach and with our players, I think we can do that," Ballard said. "We expect to play with anybody. I wouldn't consider myself a good coach if I didn't set the goal out as trying to win championships."

On the girls side of the court, instead of starting new, Eaton looks to continue what Olsson set in place the last eight years.

"My philosophy is fairly similar (to Olsson)," Eaton said. "Will my offense will be the same? It will be similar. I don't need to reinvent the wheel with what he has done."

Eaton comes in with eight straight years of Centurion experience working in nearly all capacities on the boys side of the gym. Now, he will take his experience to the girls side.

"Girls are a lot of fun to coach. You can see the effects of coaching the girls more than guys because guys are so athletic," Eaton said. "It's a fantastic opportunity to mold the team with the five returning players from last years team."

Two of those are All-Foothill Leaguers in Gabrielle Conn and Nicole Hicks.

This isn't the first time the varsity girls head coach position has knocked on Eaton's door. Last year during Olsson's short resignation Eaton thought about taking over the girls position.

"I had considered the job last year but it wasn't right for me," Eaton said.

Now, Eaton is ready for the task.

"I am a teacher, a fundamental coach," Eaton added. "I have five returning players and it is a great core. I believe with what we have we will be competing for a league championship again."

Now, as the coaches begin their first tour of duties as head coaches, the hiring committee is confident both will pick up right where the coaches before them left off.

"These are solid individuals who teach basketball well," Bolde said. "I feel we aren't going to miss a beat in the level of basketball and they each bring a level of integrity to our program and we will not miss a beat in that aspect either."


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