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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Seymour Coaching Tree Branches Into Peshtigo

The Peshtigo High School basketball programs has been enjoying plenty of successful times on the hardwood courts as of late.

The Bulldog boys and girls teams finished at the top of the M-O Conference with young squads that will only get better with experience.

Coach Ryan Spaulding’s boys are coming off a season that saw them capture their third straight M-O Conference title with another undefeated season (16-0), and shattered the record for consecutive wins against conference opponents at 52 and counting.

For head coach Bob Kuchta, his girls earned a share of the M-O crown for 2012-13, alongside Coleman, despite the fact that they had only one senior on the roster this year. A 14-2 readout in conference play for such a young team is certainly a sign of good things to come for the program.

Yes, local round ball fans can consider themselves lucky to have both Bulldog varsity squads playing at such a high level.

And the common denominator shared by both the boys’ and girls’ programs over the course of their recent return to dominance?

Coaching pedigree and philosophy. Fresh off the Seymour coaching tree.

Both Kuchta and Spaulding played their high school ball under renowned coach Jon Murphy, who has put together one of the state’s premiere programs at Seymour.

From 2000 through 2007, coach Murphy’s boys played in the state championship game and both of Peshtigo’s current head coaches are now benefiting from having been key components of that successful era of Seymour basketball.

“Those guys are both basketball junkies,” said coach Murphy of his former players, who now both wear Bulldog blue. “Both of them have a lot to offer their teams. When they were interviewing for those positions, I was called as references were checked and I didn’t hesitate to tell them ‘You can’t go wrong’ with either of these guys. They’re quality kids and they’re going to make great coaches.”

You go with what you know, and in the case of both Spaulding and Kuchta, what they know about basketball comes from their days playing under Murphy. The fundamentals that Murphy drilled into their heads as young players stayed with them through their first years of coaching and have become routine now that they are leading their own teams.

“He’s definitely been a big role model for me,” said Kuchta, who played on Seymour’s ‘03 and ‘04 teams that made it to the state finals, of his former coach and mentor. “And I think that a lot of what Ryan and I teach and coach, we try to do a lot of the same things coach Murphy does. We do a ton of the same drills. And as far as defense goes, pretty much everything I know I learned from him.”

Both Spaulding and Kuchta, when asked to reflect on what they recall of Murphy’s coaching style and what about it they have applied to their own methods of coaching, are quick to mention that he was a player’s coach who treated his pupils with respect.

“He’s an offensive mastermind,” Spaulding, who participated in three playoff runs as a member of the Thunder and was a starting guard on the 2001 state title team. “He had a great feeling for the offensive end of the floor. But he also really understood who his players were as individuals. It made it a lot of fun to play for him.”

While Kuchta’s offense is a bit more traditionally structured with set plays than he and his counterpart on the boys’ side were used to under coach Murphy, Spaulding tends to let his players figure things out for themselves as the game unfolds in front of them, much like he learned playing high school ball himself.

“We have some rules, some principals we keep in mind on offense,” said Spaulding. “But we let the kids make a lot of the decisions on the floor. We try to play to their strengths and teach them to shoot with confidence. I think what that does for you as a team, it makes more guys a threat. It makes your team tougher to defend, tougher to scout.”

Specifics of X’s and O’s aside, the overall philosophy learned by the two young coaches during their time as players in such a successful program are helping to forge another era of greatness here in Peshtigo. They were both held to a very high standard when they were players themselves and they bring the same approach to coaching their own players now.

“First and foremost, I think for both Bobby and I, the understanding of the game, the high level of expectation comes into play,” said Spaulding, who began coaching at age 19 as an assistant, followed by a year as a freshman head coach and a turn as the head coach of LaCrosse Central’s JV squad.

“We’ve both played under successful systems where those things came into play and we both try to use that in what we do now. Tradition is a big part of basketball and that’s what we had at Seymour. That team started going to the state tournament in ‘93, ‘96, ‘97 when I was a young kid. It seemed like they were going to sectionals every year and I remember going to see them as a kid at the Brown County Arena and the Kohl Center. You grow up watching those things and you and your buddies decide ‘That’s what we want to do.’ So that’s the challenge for us and that’s what we’re looking to build here in Peshtigo.”


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