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Post: Blog2_Post
  • Val T.

After a 2-year ‘break,’ Jennings returns to coaching at Argos

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

When Brian Jennings stepped down at Rochester in 2022, he said he needed a break from coaching.

The break is over.

Jennings was hired as the new girls basketball coach at Argos in April, replacing his older brother Scott. Now he will try to navigate the Lady Dragons as they enter a new conference – Argos is moving from the Hoosier Plains to the Hoosier North for 2024-25 – and the new Class 1A sectional format bursting with five percent more teams.

Jennings coached Rochester for four years. He had three winning records, won back-to-back sectionals in 2020 and 2021 and also won a conference title. He stepped down after a 16-8 record and a sectional loss to Pioneer and current Ball State player Ashlynn Brooke on Feb. 1, 2022.

“I think I said back then was it was just time for a change,” Jennings said. “I think the girls needed a change. I think I needed a break. There are pressures that go with this job, but I just needed a break at that point. Did I think I was going to get back into coaching? Not really at the time, no. But over the last two years, I still found myself watching all the games, checking out the state on the Internet and following everything.

“Then an opportunity came up where it’s close to home, close to where I work again, and I just thought I’m still doing pretty much a lot of the same things, just not on the court. So just when that opportunity arose, you know, take a chance and see if you can get back in.”

Jennings said he saw “a few” Argos girls games in person and saw more on RTCTV4 with his father John. A friend of Winamac coach Tony Stesiak, he also said he watched one of their games in person. He also traveled to see Maconaquah, whose coach Ray Davis was once an assistant on Jennings’ staff.

He also assisted Plymouth coach Micaela Schalliol during the 2022-23 season.

“You know, it is fun,” Jennings said of following his coaching friends. “You sit back, and I think I picked up a few new things just learning and watching them in a season. So it’s fun just watching them develop their teams and develop their own success.”

Argos went 10-13 under Scott Jennings last year. Ths season included a 25-point win over a Class 3A Rochester team and a 79-54 win over Oregon-Davis on senior night on Jan. 11 in which Samantha Redinger set the single-game scoring record with 55.

Redinger also led the state in per-game scoring average.

Redinger graduated, but the other four starters – Morgyn Barcus, Alydiah Leed, Leah Pizzuto and Ellie Bollenbacher – are expected to return. Often, the other four players’ jobs on the court revolved around helping Redinger get open.

Brian Jennings said Redinger’s graduation provides “opportunities for everybody.”

“We’re just learning some things,” he said. “It’s kind of like starting over. I don’t even know what kind of offense we’re running … because we don’t know what we can do. So we’re just going out and playing. They’re getting used to me. I’m getting used to them, seeing things they can and can’t do and just working on improving things from that standpoint at this point. I think at Rochester for awhile, we’d keep making some adjustments on offense and defense. Things will always change from an x-and-o standpoint, but figuring out what they can do, helping improve their skills, helping improve theory athletic ability, that’s what we’re going after right now.”Brian Jennings speaks of growing the culture at Argos. He said growing interest in an all-school weight room program this summer will help.

“The first week, it wasn’t the greatest numbers, but we seem to be growing each week now,” Jennings said. “More and more athletes are coming in on the girls side to lift and become more athletic. It just takes time to keep growing those numbers.”

Brian Jennings also said the move to the Hoosier North made him interested in the job. Argos was one of six teams in the Hoosier Plains for basketball; they will be one of nine teams in the Hoosier North.

Argos already played everybody in the Hoosier North in girls basketball except for North Miami, and they played North Miami as recently as January 2023. (This year’s game against Pioneer was canceled due to bad weather in January.)

Argos’ first three games each of the last two seasons were nonconference games against Caston, Triton and Winamac. Now that those are conference games, they will be pushed back in the schedule.

“That (Hoosier Plains) conference was OK, but it didn’t really help Argos grow as a program or anything like that,” Jennings said. “As far as the Hoosier North goes, Argos already had a lot of those teams on their schedule. But now being a part of that conference, it makes those games more important, not only to the Argos girls but to the Tritons and the Culvers. Yes, we had rivalries with them, but now we have that rivalry with it being a conference game, and you’re going to be able to add a little more excitement to those things.”

Another appeal for Jennings is that he will get to coach in the Bi-County Tournament. He was a senior player on the 1986 Argos boys team that won the Bi-County Tournament. The Dragons capped off that title by beating LaVille in four overtimes in the championship game.

“Growing up in Argos and playing in the Bi-County Tournament, it’s something that I’m looking forward to is coaching in that Bi-County Tournament this year,” Jennings said.

Jennings said Dennis Calhoun will be on his coaching staff. Calhoun, a 1985 Argos grad, has middle school coaching experience at Argos and also helped Jennings during his AAU coaching days. 

Karlee Feldman, a 2019 Bremen grad whom Jennings coached during his AAU days and who was a former high school teammate of Jennings’ daughter Alexis, “is planning” on joining the coaching staff as well. Feldman played collegiately at Maryville University in Missouri and later at Grace College.

Argos is also moving from a seven-team to an eight-team sectional. Reigning semistate champion Marquette Catholic is no longer in their sectional, and Westville is also out. Culver, Oregon-Davis, Trinity Greenlawn and Triton return from their previous sectional, and Elkhart Christian, North Judson and South Central (Union Mills) are new additions.

North Judson and South Central are both dropping down from Class 2A.

“If you had a certain draw before, you were playing three games to win a sectional,” Jennings said. “Well, now, everybody’s going to have to win three games to win that sectional. You say (North Judson and South Central) are dropping down from 2A, well, let’s not look at it that way. Let’s look at it as hey, they’re just another 1A school like us right now. Let’s just rise to the challenge. We’re playing against schools that are supposed to be our similar size. Let’s not look at it from a population standpoint. Let’s just look at it as another competitor.”


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