HARWICH ─ Several years ago, Keith Arnold was preparing to spend winters in Florida with his wife. Fortunately, at least for the Monomoy Regional High School boys basketball program, Arnold's plans changed and instead of flying south, he'll be sticking around Cape Cod as he leads the varsity boys team, ideally to victory.
Arnold originally began coaching in 1973 in Provincetown, carrying on a love of basketball instilled in him when he earned a spot on his junior varsity team as an eighth grader.
“Back then, that was a big deal,” he said. “We'd keep track of our time (in games).”
Since that first coaching job, Arnold has offered his talents and honed his coaching skills with programs such as Beverly High, Marblehead, Dennis-Yarmouth, and Nauset, where he also served as athletic director for five years between 2005 and 2010. Other coaching gigs included track, football, and girls soccer. He's also a Hall of Famer at his alma mater, Wilmington High School.
Following his high school work, Arnold became a volunteer assistant coach with the Bridgewater State men's basketball team. It was this work, and a timely comment from one of his brothers, that inspired him to consider a return to high school coaching.
“I was at a function and when it was all played out, one of my brothers emailed me the next day and said, 'You've lived a life doing what you've wanted to do,'” Arnold said. “His quote was very meaningful to me.”
Arnold learned that there might be a coaching vacancy at Monomoy when he found out that former head coach Adam Rose wouldn't be returning. Acknowledging the challenging situation, Arnold said that once the dust settled, he decided to throw his hat in the ring. He was thrilled when Monomoy Principal Bill Burkhead called to award him the position.
“Now instead of driving 70 miles to Bridgewater, I'm driving to Monomoy,” he said.
Asking Arnold what draws him to high school hoops is like asking a kid in toy store which is their favorite item. Arnold loves everything about the sport. He relishes making practice plans and has been eagerly helping his Monomoy players brush up on the fundamentals of the game, which he said are lacking in most areas of basketball.
“The biggest deal is the lack of fundamentals,” Arnold said. “The fundamentally sound kids are few and far between. Even in these three days (with Monomoy), a lot of the drills are taking in fundamentals.”
He also said that Steph Curry's prowess with the Golden State Warriors and his way with the three-point line has changed the game, as have the AAU (amateur athletic union) programs, some of which have skewed the direction of youth-to-college players. As Arnold explained, too many AAU coaches, because of influence from big-time sponsors, are focused on retaining sponsorships than fully understanding their players' needs.
“Some of them actually have contracts with big brands and try to steer these kids toward colleges that wear those brands,” Arnold said.
While he isn't interested in that aspect of non-school basketball, he does want to get more involved in the local travel programs as a means of drawing more local players into the game. He also wants to make Monomoy's basketball program so sound that players won't dream of transferring elsewhere.
“Give me enough time and there won't be any Monomoy basketball players wanting to leave here,” Arnold said. “I know what we can do.”
For those wondering how much time is “enough time” Arnold is quick to answer.
“When I was interviewed I said, 'I'm in it for the duration,'” Arnold said. “I'm committing to this: These eighth graders coming into the program right now? I'm going to be here when they graduate.”
Arnold has solid hopes for his inaugural season.
“The hopes for the first season are that we get better every day. From Monday to yesterday we've gotten better,” he said. “Every day is the goal. By the time we have the scrimmages, by the time we open up against St. John Paul (on Dec. 13), we're going to be ready for that initial game.”
Though Arnold is new to the Cape and Islands League, he feels the Sharks will be a strong team within it this season.
“Do I know the Cape and Islands League as a coach? No. But I've been on the Cape for 33 years. I've coached with the Nauset program, with the D-Y program. I know the schools that are in the league,” he said. “What each one brings to the table, I don't know. But I know what we're going to bring. I told my players, 'You guys are going to be good. You're going to be better than you think you are.'”
Arnold said that so far his new job is going well. He complimented the efforts of interim Monomoy Athletic Director Kathy Andrews and new Athletic Director Karen Guillemette for helping with his new adventure.
“I have to give credit to both Kathy Andrews, who worked on schedules and stuff like that, and Karen,” he said. “As a former AD I know what she's going through being new. Both of them, I think, really made a great transition from the end of September to now.”
Arnold is also pleased with his new team.
“After three days with these kids I couldn't be more pleased,” he said. “They're working hard. They're good kids. I drive back to Orleans with a smile on my face. I can't wait for the next practice.”