The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 8, 2014

Westside’s Lusk named girls coach of the year

Lady Renegades won 2nd state title in 3 seasons

By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer

— Perhaps Jamie Lusk was meant to be a basketball coach.

He grew up watching older brother Todd become a standout at Oceana High School and Concord University.

A few years later, he was a good player in his own right as Oceana rolled to the 1994 Class AA state championship.

It also didn’t hurt that three very successful coaches — Oceana’s Jim Hopkins and Larry Mathis, and Concord coach Steve Cox — made a big impression on him.

“I love the game. I enjoy the competitiveness of it,” Lusk said. “I knew I could stay around it by being a coach.”

He’s not just stayed around the game, he’s excelled in it in eight seasons at the helm of Westside High School’s girls basketball team.

Lusk has averaged 19.6 wins a season, and last month the Lady Renegades won their second Class AA title in the past three years.

Today he is the 2014 girls basketball Coach of the Year as voted by The Register-Herald’s sports staff.

He won the balloting over Greenbrier East’s Jim Justice, Summers County’s Wayne Ryan, PikeView’s Karen Miller and Oak Hill’s Marshall Murray.

Westside (21-3) was far more than just five good starting players. It had a deep bench, much like the 1994 Indians.

“You have to have depth. It’s hard to win a championship with four, five or six players,” Lusk said. “The bench has to play a major role in what you do in the season and in the tournaments.”

Several times during the season, Lady Renegades’ all-state center Hope Lester or point guard Danielle Brown were forced to the bench because of foul trouble.

Yet Westside rolled on, thanks to fine play by its reserves.

Much like their coach, back in the day.

“I knew when I came in the game to give Jason Mathis and Curtis Moran a rest, I was supposed to take charges, rebound and play strong post defense,” Lusk said. “You have to have players who are unselfish and understand the game.

“A lot of times we lost Hope and Danielle, but we were always able to hold the lead or expand it. That’s a compliment to the girls off the bench.”

Some other key points of his coaching style reflect his mentors.

“I liked how Larry Mathis always treated his players well,” Lusk said. “Jim Hopkins was intense in how he prepared for games and practices, and making sure we knew the fundamentals. Coach Cox was such a motivator, and always had the players’ respect.

“Those are some things I’ve tried to put into my own coaching.”

Lusk (157-36) has never had a losing season at Westside. He’s won 20 or more games four times and never won fewer than 13.

He’s guided the Lady Renegades to four state tournaments and the finals the past three seasons.

Next year will be a challenge, as Brown, all-state forward Faith Davis, guard Hope Davis, post Megan Endicott and reserves Kristin Hash, Kenzie Endicott and Lakyn Walker will be lost to graduation.

Lester, one of the finalists for state Player of the Year, returns, as does sparkplug guard Stephanie Davis and a fine JV team.

“I think we’ll still be one of the best teams in the area,” Lusk said. “We’ve got some good, young girls who will mix in with Hope and Stephanie, but it all starts with this summer (practices and leagues).

“It will be an exciting time, teaching them, and it will be fun for Hope and Stephanie to step up and be leaders. They’ll push the other girls and show them what’s needed to be a champion.”

— E-mail: dstillwell@register-herald.com