Duncan steps up as new Lady Pilgrims head coach

PLYMOUTH — Plymouth girls basketball may have a new head coach next season, but the man now serving at the helm of the program is hardly a new face.
PHS made it official Friday as it announced that longtime Lady Pilgrims assistant coach Dave Duncan would take over for 20-year skipper Dave Cox beginning in the 2012-13 season.
Duncan was with Cox from the outset of his two-decade head coaching tenure, starting as a freshman coach in the 1992-93 season. Over five years he amassed a record of 51-33 before moving on to become the PHS JV coach, where he collected a sterling record of 110-10 over six seasons, including three undefeated seasons with 60 straight wins and numerous conference and tournament championships. The last nine years Duncan has served as varsity assistant, during which time the team has gone 144-62. 
“I’m not sure they could have found a more qualified person,” said Cox of his replacement. “Twenty years in our program with all we’ve done gives him an advantage, at least at our place. I gave him a lot of latitude, so it’s almost like we were co-coaches. I think he’s well-prepared and very deserving of the opportunity.”
Although he’s no stranger to the program, serving as head coach has been a bit of an adjustment, says Duncan.
“It’s kind of tough right now. Being under Dave for 20 years, it’s a different feeling,” he said. “I’ve been playing with the varsity girls for about two or three weeks right now, and I think they’re getting a pretty good feel for what’s going on. Of course, we were young last year, and we want to get better and we want to get tougher. I’m just excited about the opportunity.”
Duncan’s familiarity both with Plymouth’s players and its coaching staff, which will remain intact in Cox’s absence, should help provide plenty of continuity for the winning program.
“First of all, it starts with great coaches underneath you, and we have a great staff at the high school,” Duncan said. “Just working under Dave, we know how many hours it takes for the program to become a good program. Like I say, I’ve got great coaches. Corey Duncan, my daughter, is coaching. Lindsay Rogers, Eric Carmichael, Ted Hayden, Dan Dewar, these are just the high school coaches. The numerous hours they’ve put in, this thing does not happen just by one individual. It takes a lot of work and a lot of time from a lot of people, and we’re willing to put that time in.”
In addition to his high school coaching chops, Duncan has been active in all three levels of Plymouth’s feeder system as well as the Lady Pilgrims’ summer basketball programs. That experience left him uniquely poised to take the reins from Cox.
“I think probably that’s what separates him from a lot of people, is his experience with what we do in the offseason at all levels,” said Cox. “A lot of people in his position would have only been willing to work with the varsity, but he’s coached two or three teams every summer for 20 years: He always coaches one in sixth, seventh or eighth, and he always coaches the varsity. The knowledge there in just being able to jump right in and do it is probably hard to measure how important it is.”
Given Duncan’s longtime collegiality with Cox and the fact that the rest of the Lady Pilgrims coaching staff has stayed in place, fans can expect much of Plymouth’s hallmark playing style to remain untouched, although Duncan will add some of his own touches.
He wants the team to keep the basics of its switching man-to-man defense and solid fundamental basketball in the halfcourt while trying intermittently to turn up the pace in the fullcourt.
“I think the basics of what we do is going to be what we’ve done the past 20 years. The kids are comfortable doing that,” said the new Plymouth boss. “I want to try to push the ball a little more, that’s what we’re doing this summer. Against the teams that make you have handle the ball, when the game slows down a little bit and you have to pass the ball, we want that combination in between pushing the ball and playing good, solid halfcourt basketball. And our defensive philosophy is not going to change a bit. We switch on our man defense, and we want to keep that. That’s been something that’s been very good for Plymouth the last several years, and that’s something we’re not going to change.”
Team philosophy won’t be any different either, says Duncan, as he tries to keep the emphasis on work ethic.
“It all goes back to Dave. He started this program, and he and his wife put so much time into our community,” he said. “Sometimes as a coach, you don’t always get the respect you need behind you, but I think it’s so important that the community understand that that’s where the program started. I’m kind of wanting to jump in here and keep this thing rolling. We want our kids to work hard, and I think that’s the biggest thing that Dave put into the program. We want to continue that.”