LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Wayne Turner knew his first head coaching position wouldn't be an easy one. He was taking over an Atherton High Schools girls program that had churned through coaches and averaged seven wins and 20 losses per season for the last decade.
But that was part of the appeal.
"They haven't been able to keep a consistent coach, and when you don't have consistency, there's no room for improvement and growth," Turner said. "Coming here, I saw the opportunity of building a program, and that's something I've always liked to do."
Turner is inspired by things he learned from a couple of high-profile coaches in this state.
"That's what I took the position for was to build it," Turner said. "I learned a lot from my coaches — Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith — in taking on challenges. Certainly, this is a challenge, and I'm up for it and just having a lot of fun doing so right now."
Turner was a 6-foot-2-inch point guard for a pair of national championship teams at Kentucky, first under Pitino in 1996 then under Smith in 1998. He is still the school's all-time leader in steals and fourth in assists. He played professionally for about a decade and has since had several coaching stops, including working for Pitino at Louisville.
He calls being a head coach one of his ultimate goals. None of his current players at Atherton were alive during his glory days at UK, but some of them have looked up some old videos of his playing days. They've been more impressed with the job he's done in his brief time working with them.
"He really came in here and took the initiative, especially after COVID," senior Abbi Leach said. "He has really strengthened us as a team and brought us all together. I think it's going to be really cool to see how Atherton grows as a program under his leadership in the years to come."
"In the short time he's been here, he's helped us a lot as players and as a team on our unity and working together," junior Graciela Alfaro added.
Turner believes his coaching style is a mix of Pitino and Smith.
"I learned a lot from both of them," Turner said. "I've seen both coaching styles. I know when to be intense and I know when not to, so I think there's a happy medium with each other. I'm taking all the experience I've learned from them and working with people and student-athletes, and I'm giving it to them."
Atherton is 1-2 in this abbreviated season with limited numbers after trying to get to know the new coach and each other through lots of Zoom workouts.
"It's been a challenge, because it's off and on, and it's been inconsistent with getting in the gym and working on the skills and style of play that you want to do," Turner said. "It confuses your team a little bit, because we're jumping right into a season without a preseason.
"So I understand that aspect, and I've just been letting them know it's a big learning experience this year. You know, we want to win games, but the most important thing is for you to learn how to play basketball the right way and have fun."
And he believes he's at a place where he can build a successful program.
"I honestly do," Turner said. "It's a well-run school. Dr. Aberli — our principal — does an amazing job. They're very good kids. It's a well-educated school. I don't have to worry about grades. This is a great place for me to start, and I'm just excited to see what the future has in store."
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