MAYFIELD — A familiar face will soon grace the sidelines at the Eagles’ Nest once again.
Lyndon Dunning, a former Eagle and Lady Eagle assistant coach, will take over this season as head coach of the Graves County Lady Eagles following the departure of Brandon Fisher.
Dunning has traveled near and far on his quest to become a head coach, with assistant coaching stints at Graves, Logan, Garrard and Marshall counties.
In addition to his time as an assistant basketball coach, Dunning has also lent his hand as an assistant to a number of other programs over the years including both of the Marshall County golf teams as well as the high school softball program at Garrard County.
Many would say any experience earned is good experience, and for someone like Dunning who has worn many hats in his career, that saying rings true.
Looking back on his time on the bench with his former teams, Dunning says the experiences he endured as an assistant helped shape him into the coach he is today.
“When you become a head coach, there’s so many new responsibilities,” Dunning said. “But I feel like the coaches I’ve worked for, (Allan) Hatcher and (Terry) Birdsong, have helped me see the things you have to do as a leader rather than just being a part of a program. We’ve had some great talent here and great coaches, so I hope we can build on their success and tradition.”
A big catalyst for Dunning taking over the Lady Eagle program stems from his desire to run a program his own way.
With over 20 years of experience as a second-hand man on the bench for some of west Kentucky’s top coaches, Dunning said he’s ready to implement his own strategies for success.
“(I’m excited) to be able to shape the program and run it the way it should be done,” Dunning said. “I think a basketball program shouldn’t just be at the high school level. You see every good program starts not just from the top but from the ground up. I’ve tried to communicate and stay involved with the younger girls even though we lost the summer to camps and things we normally do. I’ve tried to keep myself involved over at the middle school because I want to make sure they know they’re a part of our program. I think you can build on the success of the past, but you can also spur interest and keep girls wanting to play.”
Dunning inherits a team that narrowly captured its first First Region title since 2015 following a 52-50 overtime loss to Marshall County a season ago.
With two starters returning and a deep bench to mold, Dunning is eager to get the season started.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has plagued almost every inch of high school athletics over the last nine months, and basketball was no exception.
With the Lady Eagles’ season slated to begin Jan. 5, Dunning said fans can expect his team to push the limits on offense this season.
“I think we’re going to play similar in some ways, but I think we’re really going to expand our offensive game,” Dunning said. “We’re going to push the tempo of the game and spread the floor and I think the girls have really picked up on that, they’re learning how to run their lanes and get wide. We’re going to have a lot of girls who can shoot the ball this season.”
In regards to Graves County’s deep bench and plethora of talent, fighting for playing time will be inevitable for a number of players this season.
Although there may be frontrunners at the moment for certain positions, Dunning said he’ll be very open to any and all changes as the season progresses.
“I’m the type of person who believes in giving kids opportunities,” Dunning said. “I’m not someone who gets set in one certain way. If we start playing and things need to change, we’re going to move on and try something different. I think my experience as a JV and freshman coach over the years has helped me prepare for this season, because there’s been times where we’ve had to adjust because day-to-day you may not have the same players.”
Dunning went on to add that although his first year may be slightly irregular, he’s still excited for the challenge the 2020-21 season presents.
“This season is going to be a constant grind for everyone dealing with COVID. One week you may have your regular season set and then the next you’re scrambling for another opponent. It’s going to be a uphill battle, but I think it’ll be a great challenge for all of us.”