BY GRANT LEGISTER
If there were three words to describe new Centennial varsity boys’ basketball coach Tyler Hickman, they’d be faith, family and commitment.
Hickman was born in Memphis and lived there until he was 18. Since his high school days, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in athletics, and he quickly focused his attention on the field of coaching.
He ended up an assistant coach at Centennial for a time through the cultivation of a friendship with former Centennial head coach Pete Froedden, whom Hickman met in high school.
They met again at Lipscomb while Hickman was attending college, and it was at this time he committed to pursuing coaching in a more full-time capacity after having a meeting with Froedden to join the Cougars staff, where he worked before pursuing an opportunity at Battle Ground Academy as an assistant last season.
The decision to return at Centennial to succeed Froedden did not come easy. Hickman had opportunities to go elsewhere after his stint with BGA, but he ultimately decided to coach at Centennial for several of reasons, the first being his Christian faith.
“I would say I’m a believer, obviously faith has played a big role in my life.” Hickman said. “My high school basketball coach Kevin Starks, Pete Froedden and my father-in-law are the three guys that have been huge influences in my life and have shown me how to live right.”
Hickman is also a family man. After talking with his family, Hickman felt a lot better about his decision on where he would coach next.
“I think you start with faith and family and you go down the road from there.” Hickman said. “My wife was very supportive of the decision that we made to come back to Centennial. Having family here helped make the decision easier.”
Hickman’s final consideration about whether or not to coach at Centennial was the school itself. There was an element of reciprocal familiarity and value between himself and those of the school community.
“Centennial was a special place to me, even as an assistant.” Hickman said. “There’s just a great group of kids, great parents, the administration obviously. It’s a special place, so obviously it was enticing to come back.”
At the time of the interview, Hickman had held the position of head coach for all of three practices. But he’s already noticing the differences in what it takes to be an assistant coach and a head coach. It’s his job to create a staff that gives the team the best chance to win games.
Hickman’s years spent as an assistant helped him realized that having a great basketball program is not solely based on the head coach, that it reaches from the ground up, and there are important tasks he must be willing to accomplish.
“Always learn and grow; the game is constantly changing and constantly moving,” Hickman said. “Being in that assistant role and knowing that having great assistants is part of having a great program and spending time and developing your players is also key.”
Hickman knows that coaching isn’t going to be all sunshine and roses. Arguments and tough losses happen. However, the coach said he is excited to get to work in developing his players’ existing skillsets and continuing the relationships with his players.
“I think our kids have had a great foundation laid and a great culture,” he said. “Just looking to build on that is exciting.”
However confident Hickman is in his players and his staff, he knows that this is still Williamson County. Even though there are several new coaches in the district this year, he said he arrives with built-in respect for the competition and his fellow coaches.
“I think the hardest part of it is just knowing how tough our district is year in and year out.” Hickman said. “You have great coaches throughout the district. I know a good deal of the coaches already and I know that they all do a great job and that’s going to be the toughest part by far.”
This coming season will be a different one for Centennial. The school will be without standout Tre Carlton (a 1,000-point scorer just a season ago and earner of 11-AAA All-District honors), who is transferring to Summit, but there are other players like Dusty Williams (13.5 points per game last season) who will be available to play and make the transition a little easier.
Even though he was hired to coach, Hickman believes this commitment is about more than basketball. Head coaches also have responsibility to their players off the court; they need form a relationship with their players to they can help guide them as much as possible.
“At the end of the day, as a coach, you do it for the kids.” Hickman said. “If they know that, you’re typically on a good path. Helping them see the grander scheme of things, helping them see the path for them [and] helping them grow as young men off the floor is a huge motivating factor.”
Photo from Centennial.