TRAVERSE CITY — The Traverse City Central girls basketball program got an injection of blue collar on Thursday.
The Trojans announced the hiring of Heather Simpson to guide the varsity team, where she will be instilling tenacity in her squad with an emphasis on effort and attitude.
“I look forward to changing the culture,” said Simpson, who takes over a team that went 5-15 last season. “I think we’re going to be competitive and I say that because we’re going to change the way we think and the way we work. We talk about two things and that’s attitude and effort. We’re going to work on having a great attitude, a positive attitude, and our effort. Having strong effort every day, in practice and in games. That will allow you to compete, and when you compete, it might translate into wins. I really think we’re going to surprise some people because we’re going to get after it.”
Simpson was picked out of a pool of six candidates. Four interviewed out of the initial six and three were considered finalists.
“What Heather brought to the table was an overall passion for the job,” said TC Central AD Cody Inglis. “She has a passion for basketball, but also for teaching and reaching kids. When you combine that with her philosophy on educational athletics, and the importance of teaching those lifelong lessons, of holding kids accountable with high expectations, those are the things that stood out for me as an athletic director and wanting to put her in charge of the program. We debated a challenging hire because we wanted to make sure we had the best candidate. In the end Heather stood out.”
Simpson is also the Trojans’ junior varsity softball coach and co-coaches the St. Francis varsity volleyball team.
“I really believe in high school athletics and what they can do for kids and I’m really passionate about coaching,” Simpson said. “We can influence so many kids. That’s why I want to be a leader of the program so we can get into the elementary schools, we can work with the little kids, we can be leaders and mentors. I love basketball, don’t get me wrong, but I live to coach.”
Because Simpson has been involved with the Central basketball program and coaches softball at the school, she has plenty of familiarity with the players she has inherited.
“I’ve worked with almost all these kids at some point,” Simpson said. “They’ve played freshman basketball or softball. I have a good relationship with the majority of the kids. I know them. I know their strengths and weaknesses. I believe in them.”
Simpson said her team will be heavy on playing tough man-to-man defense, with an offense that looks to work inside-out. But she expects defense to be the Trojans’ calling card.
“I love defense,” she said. “That’s going to be our signature because you can control that. That’s an attitude and effort type of thing.
“(On offense) we’re going to hit our post. You might post up if you’re 5-foot-2. Everybody’s going to have the ability to do that. I think that’s gone by the wayside a little bit in high school girls basketball. It’s more finesse and I’m more blue collar. Let’s play defense and let’s get it into our post, whoever that might be.”
Jay Lerner, an assistant principal at the school, led the Trojans’ summer program, taking the team to camps, running open gyms and workouts, though it was just on an interim level. While the season doesn’t start for about three more months, Inglis felt it was important to fill the opening before the start of school next week.
“The timing is a challenge. It certainly doesn’t prohibit us. I feel good about where our summer program left us. Jay left us in a good spot,” said Inglis. “In the end I feel good about having someone the caliber of Heather in place at this time.”