New Coach, New Rules

Kevin Khuu becomes boys’ middle school basketball coach; Matt Buchanan takes on junior varsity

When introduced to a new environment, many can be scared or intimidated by the unfamiliarity. This wasn’t exactly the case with Kevin Khuu, UPA’s former boys’ junior varsity (JV) coach  and former middle school boys’ basketball coach Matt Buchanan.

Khuu decided recently that he wanted to stop coaching, as he could not devote all of his time and effort into coaching the team. Only when the position to coach the middle school team was not filled, then did Khuu decide to change to a middle school coach instead. The position to coach the JV team opened after the 2021-2022 season and current JV boys’ basketball coach Matt Buchanan took the opportunity.

“My goal is to be the varsity coach at some point, and so I felt good,” Buchanan said. “It was a good way to start, at middle school, and then work into JV, and then working into varsity ultimately.”

Khuu and Buchanan both have their own unique coaching styles and strengths. Buchanan coaches with old-school style drills and plays like a screen-away play or various drills focusing on the fundamentals of basketball, while Khuu focuses on modern drills like fast paced plays and less fundamentally focused skills. Khuu coaches by letting the players on the team have fun and allowing more playing time in games, or even during practice.

With the switch, Buchanan has coached some players for the last two seasons, while others have experienced both coaches’ different styles and plays. Eighth grader Darsh Gottam was on the middle school team during the 2021-2022 school year when Buchanan coached it.

The middle school boys’ basketball team, led by coach Kevin Khuu, scrimmages against the junior varsity boys’ basketball team to allow for the younger players to experience competition with larger opponents. The two teams had split the gym then decided to scrimmage against one another during a practice on Jan. 12.

“Mr. Buchanan had a set of strict rules that he wanted us to follow,” Darsh said. “Since he was [a] middle school [coach], he wanted to make a great sports community. Mr. Khuu is more focused just on the game of basketball.”

Buchanan sticks to the tradition in which students wear a tie, button-up shirt or their jersey on the day of the game to symbolize unity through the team. While Khuu’s team does not follow this tradition, he helps his team to stay unified by drilling down on key fundamentals of the sport.

When coaching JV and middle school, it is easier to see that the teams vary in size, but their knowledge of basketball is still very similar. Some players know more about the rules of basketball and common plays. than their teammates.

“In terms of their [basketball] IQ, it’s pretty similar,” Khuu said. “There’s still kids on JV who don’t know the ‘three in the key’ rule, or they don’t know about a backcourt violation or the free throw lane violation. So it’s really not that different.”

Buchanan agrees with Khuu and also believes that there is an obvious size difference between the two teams. The coaches have to adapt to having larger and smaller players by changing their playstyle and the drills they teach, which impacts them when they play in games. The middle school league teams are shorter than teams in the JV league, so Buchanan will be able to focus on plays and the understanding of basketball instead of the techniques and can focus less on the athletic ability of the players.

“One of the biggest things that I’m noticing between the two groups is the size difference,” Buchanan said. “Just in a couple years of development for the athletes, there’s a large size difference. Even the kids that were in eighth grade last year are quite a bit bigger than they were a year ago.”

Along with a change in coaching style, Buchanan and Khuu have different prospects for their new teams.

“I just think my expectations are higher, and I don’t think I’ve changed much at all,” Buchanan said. “I expect kids to grow in every way.”