BASKETBALL: Fans embrace new coach

Michael Casagrande

With over a hundred fans watching and creating an atmosphere resembling more of a pep rally than a press conference, the Darrin Horn era began Tuesday night in Diddle Arena.

The new Western men’s basketball coach has yet to coach a single game, but he got a standing ovation.

The enthusiasm surrounding the hire was apparent as fans waited patiently for the opportunity to shake the hand of the former Hilltopper hero.

Horn played at Western from 1992 to 1995, and was an assistant with the program after graduating, from 1995 to 1997.?

While alumni and fans know what Horn means to the storied program, many current students have little knowledge of the new coach.

Those students in attendance seemed indifferent Tuesday night, perhaps still recovering from their March Madness hangovers.

Horn, 30, will become the second youngest coach in the country, a fact Malandra Wilson, a sophomore from Clarksville, Tenn., finds comforting.

“He was on the court not very long ago, so I think he has a better perspective on newer players and newer techniques,” Wilson said.

The comparisons between Horn and recently hired football coach David Elson are hard to ignore. Both former Western assistants, Horn and Elson will have to battle critics that contend they are too young to be leading such high-profile programs.

Lerron Moore, a freshman from Columbus, Ohio, thinks that the team has a chance of making the Final Four next season, and Horn’s age will only benefit the team.

“Coach Elson is only 30-something, and I think people underestimate (Horn and Elson) just because they are young,” Moore said. “By them being young, it shows that they have time to grow and they could even be doing something better.”

Nashville junior Adam Tudor looks at Horn’s ability to lure top recruits to the Hill as a must for the young coach.

“The college game today is all about recruiting, if he’s a recruiter, we should be alright,” Tudor said. “I hope he can get athletes in here with character, because a lot of them don’t.”

Reggie Jackson, a location manager with Dining Services, remembers Horn as a player. Jackson enjoyed Horn’s scrappy style of play, and looks forward to watching the 1995 All-Sun Belt Conference performer roam the Diddle Arena sideline.

“If he coaches as well as he played, he’s going to be a good coach,” Jackson said. “He was a tough player.”

Students agree that Horn’s ties to the university and the community of Bowling Green will make him a loyal coach.

“He played on the Hill, and I’d rather have somebody from the Western family than someone from outside the program,” Louisville senior Corey Shaw said.

With the new coach in Diddle Arena, a new attitude will be sure to follow, but Horn already has the support of fans and students alike.

With only seven months until the start of the 2003-2004 season tips off, the countdown has begun.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected].