Varsity Basketball

Carroll boys pick right time to mesh

The emotions were too much for Bishop Carroll boys basketball coach Lonnie Lollar, holding him captive inside his team's locker room in Andover.

The long walk to the isolated room seemed like a world apart from the court where the Golden Eagles had earned a berth into the Class 5A tournament, which starts Wednesday in Topeka.

"This has been a blessing," Lollar said. "The way our team came together was one of the most satisfying moments of the 43 years I've been around the game of basketball.

"I don't know if it's one of my proudest coaching achievements. I think it is one of the most proud moments of being around a group of guys that came together."

So he sat back and savored the satisfaction of the accomplishment and let his latest successful reclamation project marinade.

For the third time in his five years at Carroll, Lollar had guided a team of perceived mediocre players in the City League to Topeka.

"He understands we don't have a lot of talent, so we have to do things the right way," said Carroll assistant Al Rohleder, who has been with Lollar all five years. "He demands that we do things right. He wants it done a certain way.

Once the kids buy into it, then we always seem to get rolling."

Of the three teams he has taken to state, each one finished the regular season with nine losses and none finished higher than fourth in league.

So how does such a pedestrian program during the regular season continually advance so far in the post-season?

"His style of basketball fits our team perfectly," said 2008 graduate Brett Steven, who that year led the Eagles to the state final. "We're never the quickest team like East or Southeast, but he knows how to get us to play to our ability. That's how we won a lot of our games. He always got us to play to our ability."

Lollar's strength lies within his ability to evaluate strengths and weaknesses and then to game plan accordingly.

"I've never seen anybody put in as much time and effort as I've seen from coach Lollar," Rohleder said. "This guy understands Xs and Os. He's probably the best X and O coach I've been associated with."

That may be lost upon spectators during Lollar's tirades on the sidelines. His infamous foot stomps and hand claps come with what he offers — intensity.

"I think to the naked eye, if you watch me on the sidelines on Tuesday and Friday, yeah, on the outside it does appear I can be pretty hard on them," Lollar said.

But Lollar can do it because he has the respect of his players. His passion for the game inspires his players to strive to win for him.

And no matter the amount of perceived talent on his team, it will do anything for Lollar.

"It felt like I was fighting for my teammates and my coach," said Bobby Rech, a 2007 graduate. "Every time I was on the floor, I knew I was always going to give 100 percent for anything that I do for that guy."