All-County: Garmon named girls coach of the year
By Ronnie Gallagher
When the 2007 season ended at East Rowan, girls basketball coach Karen Garmon decided enough is enough.
The 11-16 record was the Mustangs’ third straight losing campaign. East had lost its swagger, something she and her teammates had plenty of when she was suiting up for Gina Talbert in the late 1990’s.
It was time for a sitdown with her young players to discuss East Rowan’s past.
“I talked to them a lot about what the East Rowan tradition is,” Garmon said. “The tradition is to win. I know. I was a part of that.”
She sure was. When Garmon graduated from East in 1999, the then-Karen Brown ended a three-year career with 64 wins, culminating with a 26-4 record as a senior. Brown and teammates such as Laura Edwards, Julie Austin, Brooke Misenheimer, Nicole Loggins and Khara Bost helped make up one of the most successful eras in school history.
But going into this year, East was reeling.
“We all had to get on the same page,” Garmon said. “Not only does a coach have to believe in herself but you have to get the kids to believe in what you’re trying to do. Getting them to mesh ó that takes time.”
After spending the summer going to camps at Clemson and Catawba, as well as in open gym, it has finally clicked again in Granite Quarry. The Mustangs finished tied for second in the tough North Piedmont Conference, went 19-10 and won a road playoff game.
The swagger is back. And so is the honor Talbert won a few times during her career. For orchestrating the turnaround, Garmon is the 2008 Rowan County Coach of the Year.
After three games, a turnaround wasn’t on anyone’s mind. The Mustangs were 1-2.
That’s when Garmon turned to her seniors.
Haley Miller, Lauren Cress, Lisa Hill and the Stout sisters, Samantha and Kelsey, dug deep and became leaders.
“They set the tone,” Garmon praised. “The seniors left a standard of ‘This is the way things are going to be done from now on.’ Even the seniors who didn’t play a lot did what they were supposed to do.”
Juniors Ashley Collins and Katelynne Poole, the team’s leading scorers, bought in. So did names like Vanderford and Carroll and Rankin and Sabo and Holshouser.
Boom. An eight game winning streak.
One of the wins was a resounding 54-34 spanking of Lake Norman, which was supposed to be champion Statesville’s biggest threat.
It was here that Garmon realized something special was happening.
“We were all in shock,” she said. “I was expecting us to be trading baskets. Honestly, I was sitting there thinking, ‘Whoa!’ ”
The early success helped Garmon’s state of mind. She was going for her masters degree during the season. Add that to basketball and it was quite a workload.
The winning streak ended with a loss to Salisbury in the Moir Christmas Classic, but East then won six of its next seven. The Mustangs were 15-4 and no one was taking them lightly.
“It was a lot less stress,” Garmon laughed. “I was actually able to go home, kick back, relax and enjoy it.”
Through it all, Talbert was a motivating factor for Garmon.
“She’s always very encouraging,” Garmon said. “She levels me out. She calms me down and picks me up. I talk to (Talbert’s sister and jayvee coach) Laurie Wyrick a lot, too.”
Garmon displayed a sheepish grin when asked about her relationship with Talbert.
“I’ve been listening to her all my life, ya know? Sometimes I still feel that coach-player relationship.”
Talbert knew how to use her Mustangs. Garmon was a role player who averaged 3.6 points as a senior.
“I tell these girls that I was a role player, kind of like Lisa Hill was this year,” Garmon noted. “When you put all these kids together, it was a strong group because they could all do the little things.”
Garmon and assistant Danielle Porter used anything they could to motivate, even after the team got on a roll. Once, they brought in an old newspaper clipping with a photo of an East team posing after winning a conference tournament title.
“It was all yellow and raggedy,” Garmon laughed. “We showed the girls and said, ‘This is what it’s all about right here.’ ”
The future is promising. Seven players will return.
“They’ve been confident all year,” Garmon said, “and I know it will carry over with Katelynne and Collins. They’re going to be great. They’re going to play hard. And they all get along really well, which is half the battle.”
Thanks to a coach who embraced winning as a player, it appears the East Rowan tradition is back where it belongs.
Contact Ronnie Gallagher at 704-797-4287 or email@example.com.