Every morning on his way to work, Moundridge boys coach Vance Unrau calls his son, Ty, to talk basketball. The sport is a shared love — a family passion, really.
Ty played for his dad at Moundridge, graduating in 2001, and is in his third season as Douglass’ coach. Trey plays basketball at Barton County, and Vance’s parents, Glen and Mary Lou, were at Monday’s Halstead tournament to see both Moundridge and Douglass play, even though Mary Lou had a medical procedure done earlier in the day.
Friday night, though, basketball will be awkward because Douglass will play Moundridge at 6 p.m. in the semifinals.
It’s the first meeting between the two as head coaches.
“It is awkward, I’m not going to lie,” Vance said. “He’s probably looking forward to coaching Friday night against me a lot more than I’m looking forward to coaching against him.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to coach to win.”
The same is true for Ty.
“Oh, it will be a little awkward at first, but once the game starts, we’re trying to win. It’s about two teams going at it,” Ty said. “He’s just as competitive as I am.”
Now in the stands, that’s where it could be interesting. Glen and Mary Lou will be there — they wouldn’t miss this game — as will Candy, Vance’s wife and Ty’s mom.
“She may be cheering every basket for both teams,” Vance said in a text message.
“I’m not sure where she’ll sit,” Ty said with a laugh.
Ty’s sister, Tara Hershberger, is the mother to Vance’s lone grandson, Kohen. At 19 months, Vance is confident Kohen doesn’t have any Douglass shirts, so he’ll be in Moundridge gear.
Vance and Ty know they are in a special spot, but each wants to defuse the story as being solely about them.
“They’re 8-2 and we’re 9-2,” Ty said. “It’s more about the players that are playing.… It’s about our players, and it’s in a good game. The tournament there, it’s a great showcase for kids.”
Fans should also enjoy watching the show, considering the teams are near clones.
On offense, Moundridge runs ball screens and high-low … so does Douglass.
Douglass plays man defense … so does Moundridge.
“I kind of mold my defense, my philosophy from my dad,” Ty said. “It’s in-your-face man-to-man, take away what the opponents are trying to do. It will be mirror images.”
Ty said during a video session with his players as they readied to play Moundridge, they were noticing how Moundridge ran the same plays they do.
Both coaches will try to mix things up, maybe calling certain plays by a new name or use new hand signals.
“There’s hardly a day that goes by that we don’t talk,” Vance said. “We bounce a lot of things off each other. Going into Friday night, he’s going to know my stuff. It’s going to be really, really important for our kids to make in-game adjustments based on how they’re going to play us. I’m sure he’s got something up his sleeve. I know he does.”
While basketball strategy is a frequent conversation piece, Vance passes on knowledge of the best ways of dealing with parent and athlete issues.
“We share perspective on things,” said Ty, who is 30. “He’s established. He’s been there (27) years. He has 403 wins. I’m in the 40s in wins. His program is disciplined with tough-nosed players, tough play, rebounding.
“My team might be a little better offensively, maybe, but their team makes up in the discipline and sound defense (area), which is where I’m trying to get my program at.”
For a moment during an interview, Vance moves beyond the talk of basketball and matchups.
“I’m as proud of Ty as any dad can be,” said Vance, who has won five state titles, including four straight ending in 1993. “We as parents, we want to see our kids grow up and be successful and be good people. Ty’s done that. He’s not only a good coach, but he’s a good person. He’s a great teacher in the classroom, too.”