MANHATTAN — For the fifth time in as many years, Manhattan has a new head girls’ basketball coach. Charli Chapman has been approved by the school board to take over the struggling program.
Chapman has spent the past two years serving as the school’s head volleyball coach and guided the Tigers to back-to-back divisional tournaments. She’ll continue to serve as volleyball coach in addition to coaching the basketball team.
With the recent uncertainty at the head coach position, Chapman hopes to instill some much-needed stability into the program.
“I think when you have a lot of turnover, teenagers, that’s a lot to ask them to adapt to,” she said.
Coaching both programs is a huge time commitment, but after receiving encouragement from her family, Chapman decided to apply. She’ll be a first-time head basketball coach, but has plenty of experience at the junior varsity and junior high levels, including seven years as the JV coach at Eureka.
Chapman also served as a JV coach for the Tigers two years ago under Joel Bos after her family moved to Manhattan.
The Tigers have averaged just four wins per season over the past four years and have not won a game at the district tournament during that span. Last year’s team finished with a 5-15 record under Mikal Jones, who also coached the 2017-18 squad to a 3-17 mark.
The Tigers won just one game four years ago under Kim McCauley, but did enjoy some success under Bos with an 8-win season.
Chapman wants to change the culture of losing by getting back to the basics while building a successful program.
“I feel like when I showed up for volleyball that was kind of the same mindset that I had. I just look at this as another opportunity to have a positive impact for kids in our community,” she said. “I’m all in with full acknowledgement of the commitment and time it’s going to take to make it happen and to make it be good.”
The challenge will be getting players to buy into another head coach. It’s a discussion Chapman has had with her coaching staff, but she noted positive attitude and excitement of the athletes at open gym thus far.
“These seniors, this is going to be essentially their fourth head coach in their four years. Last year’s seniors, it was their fourth head coach in four years. Mikal they had twice, but not in concurrent years,” said Chapman. “Stability is huge. Laying a foundation of what is the culture of the program and implementing that daily, and having the kids have some buy-in, is a huge piece.”
Seth Halvorson, whose daughter Ella will be a junior on the team, has been hired as the JV coach, while Brad Ballantyne will coach the C-squad. Both have previous coaching experience and Chapman noted their enthusiasm and knowledge of the game.
“He (Ballantyne) and Seth both are all in and they were there last week at open gyms. We’re running two open gyms a week,” she said. “Just really working together to bring all of our experiences and knowledge bases in where we want to take this program. So super excited about the team we’ve built.”
While the goal is to become competitive as quickly as possible, Chapman acknowledged it will be difficult. District 5B is among the toughest in Class B and boasted the state champion and consolation winner three years ago in Three Forks and Townsend, respectively. Three Forks also placed fourth at state two years ago, while Big Timber reached the state semifinals this past season.
“Looking at our conference, and the talent that’s in our conference, we have tough conference. Looking ahead, it’s not going to get any less tough,” said Chapman. “It’s going to take some time, but we also have an obligation to this year’s program, this year’s varsity, to do everything we can to give them the best experience we can to have quality basketball.”
Manhattan is expected to return four seniors and eight varsity players from last year’s team. That includes senior guards Madeline and Olleca Severson and senior post Hallie Hemenway.
“We got a lot of work to do,” said Chapman. “But I’m excited and I’m optimistic about this team we’ve put together of coaches that we can get it done, and the kids are already being super receptive.”