NORMAN — It’s a summer of change for Norman High basketball.
The first shoe to drop was girls’ coach Nichole Copeland leaving, opening the door for boys’ assistant Michael Neal to take over the program. Then boys’ freshman coach Matt Mossman left to take an assistant job at Hillsdale Baptist College, opening up another spot on boys’ coach Matt Thornton’s staff.
With the departures, Thornton has been left to pick up the pieces and rebuild his staff to lead a team that didn’t win many games last season but pulled off the year’s biggest upset by knocking off Edmond Santa Fe in the opening round of the Class 6A playoffs.
Thornton’s first priority this summer was to fill the open spots, and he’s well on his way to doing so.
“I’m excited for Mike to take over for the girls,” Thornton said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for him. He does a tremendous job with the kids; he teaches respect and the kids cling to him. He has a great demeanor, brings a positive attitude and his excitement level will really kind of rejuvenate that program with the bunch of young girls he’s got.
“The one hire we’ve made is Billy Barnard to take over for the freshmen. He’s a young guy and real passionate about being a good coach. He’s open-minded about a lot of different things, has a lot of knowledge already but also knows he’s got a lot more to learn.”
While Thornton has several candidates in mind, there hasn’t been a hire made for the junior varsity coach. Jason Sanders, the other assistant from last year’s staff, will return next season.
One thing that has remained constant despite the short-handed coach staff is summer basketball. The Tigers competed in the Edmond Memorial summer league and attended the University of Oklahoma’s team camp for the first time since Thornton arrived three years ago. He has a team that graduated nearly all of its rotation players, but Thornton has been impressed with what he’s seen from the lone returning starter Cooper Clark and the cast around him.