Nick Darling jumped at the chance for another challenge toward success.
Darling was named as head coach of the Laramie High girls basketball team on Friday, and will begin directing the program pending approval by the Albany County School District No. 1 Board of Education.
“It doesn’t come around too often — to be in a position to be a head varsity basketball coach at a high school, and at one of the larger schools in the state,” Darling said. “… When the girls’ opportunity opened, I was just thinking I would love a new challenge.”
Darling was an assistant coach for the Plainsmen basketball program for the last four seasons, coaching the sophomore and junior varsity levels.
“I have a relationship with every single player in the boys program because I’ve coached them for so long — from second and third grades to where they are now,” Darling said. “So it was an emotional thing for me to figure out if I wanted to leave helping them with where they want to be.”
The first three years Darling was an assistant coach for his friend of more than 20 years, former Plainsmen head coach Travis Brown. He then was an assistant coach last season for veteran coach Jim Shaffer during his first season at Laramie.
“I loved every second of it,” Darling said. “I’m definitely and relationship-type coach, and I am very much about winning. But it’s the relationships that really drive me while helping kids figure stuff out in their transitional years of becoming adults and moving forward into college. I’ve been able to coach and mentor the kids at every level.
“I (also) had a fantastic time with Jim Shaffer the last year. He has been a great mentor to me and I’ve learned a ton from him. Ernie Mecca, who was a varsity volunteer assistant last season and coached 1A girls basketball for many years, and I talked a lot about (the girls opening).”
Darling is not new to coaching basketball in Laramie since he and his wife, Rebecca, moved here about seven years ago. He has coached the 7220 youth basketball club traveling teams for players from third grade to high school varsity for six years. He was also a coach for Laramie Fire youth basketball for about three years, and also coached football and baseball.
“Coach Darling has a long history of developing athletes from youth ages all the way through college,” LHS activities and athletics director Ron Wagner said in a release. “Coach Darling has a wealth of knowledge about building rapport with student-athletes and the game of basketball. We are looking forward to seeing what Coach Darling can do with our program.”
Darling replaces Rod Tyson, who resigned after two seasons of his second time as head coach of the LHS girls.
The Lady Plainsmen were 4-18 last season, including 0-6 in the Class 4A East Conference Southeast Quadrant.
The LHS girls were led by then-juniors Kylee Cox, a guard, and Kayla Vasquez, a forward.
Cox was named first team all-conference with a team-high 11 points to go with 3.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.5 steals per game. She tied for seventh in the East Conference in points, fourth in 3-point percentage at 35% and third in free-throw percentage at 81%, which was also fifth in all of 4A.
Vasquez earned all-conference honorable mention with 5.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and team-highs of 2.1 steals and 1.3 blocks. Her blocks per game were fourth in the conference and tied for fourth 4A.
Sophomore forward/center Morgann Jensen and sophomore point guard Janey Adair were also all-conference honorable mention selections last season.
Jensen had 5.1 points and a team-high 8.4 rebounds. Her rebounds ranked third in the conference and fifth in 4A. She also had a conference sixth-best 0.8 blocks per game.
Adair had 6.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.9 steals. She also had a sixth-best 34% in 3-point shooting in the conference.
“There are some upperclassmen who are gifted and they have a ton of potential,” Darling said. “The biggest thing I will bring is working on chemistry. I’m not as worried about skill level because they have a good work ethic and improved their skills over the years.
“But truthfully, you can’t be successful unless you have good chemistry. With every team I’ve coached, it’s not about the individual, but becoming a team. I want to teach them how to become a team, and then move forward from there.”