By RYAN HERMAN
It’s been a long time since West Lincoln’s varsity boys basketball team has been successful.
David Handsel plans on changing that.
The school announced on Thursday that Handsel, a former head coach at North Gaston, has been hired to be the Rebels’ next head coach. The 54-year-old Gaston County native takes over for Karl Sain, who, after seven seasons resigned to accept a position in administration.
Handsel knows of the struggles the Rebels’ basketball program has had over the years. It hasn’t had a winning season since 1981-82, when it went 20-7. That was also the last time the team won a state playoff game.
The Rebels have been to the state playoffs just four times since –– the last in 2007 –– and are 0-4 in those trips.
To Handsel, his team –– past, present and future –– is 0-0.
“I love coaching and have a passion for the sport and the kids. I feel like wherever we go we can compete and be successful,” he said. “That past is in the past. From what I understand we have a foundation to build off of, and that’s what we want to do. We want to be able to compete and do well in the conference.”
Since Handsel accepted the job on Thursday, he is behind in terms of summer workouts.
He has yet to meet any of his players, and only knows of what to expect, in terms of skill and returning players, from the handful of conversations he’s had with those around the program.
But that isn’t deterring him from bringing his 20-plus years of experience and uptempo-style of offense to Vale to try and turn West Lincoln into a contender.
“We’ll be working hard to do the best we can to be successful. … They’ve been successful in some other sports, but we want to do the best we can to further that on the basketball court,” Handsel said.
“We’ll play some catch-up and work as hard as we need to to get to that point. It all comes down to the kids who come out to play for you. We’ll do the best we can with what we have.
“I am really excited about it.”
Handsel comes to West Lincoln a year away from coaching after leading the boys varsity program at North Gaston for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.
The Wildcats went 5-18 in his first season, and 7-17 in his second. North Gaston went 1-20 the year before Handsel took over, showing he has the skills necessary to turn things around, even when others may have their doubts.
“I like being a part of a program that is in a rebuilding stage –– that’s what attracted me to that job,” Handsel said of coming to West Lincoln. “I’m all about positive. If the kids see that you believe in them, sometimes they can do more than what they’re really capable of doing.”
Handsel, a non-faculty coach who owns his own business and inherits a team that went 2-21 last winter, will be the school’s 13th head coach since the 1984-85 season. Sain’s seven seasons were the longest during that stretch.
Handsel graduated from East Gaston in 1978, and played two years of college basketball at Montreat-Anderson College –– now Montreat College.
He arrived at North Gaston in 2005, where he was an assistant to Shawn Hubers for four seasons, and spent the 12 seasons prior as a varsity assistant and head junior varsity coach at East Gaston.
Handsel spent two years as the head coach at Stanley Christian Academy, a Gaston County private school that has since closed.
“We look forward to begin the work of putting together a team that the athletes, school, and community will be very proud of,” West Lincoln Athletic Director Wayne Navey said in an email statement. “We are excited about the challenges before us.”
Phillip Gardner of the Gaston Gazette contributed to this report.