Cantrell steps down as SHS boys' basketball coach

George Browning

After having the same boys’ basketball coach for 18 seasons, Salem is now looking for its third coach in four seasons after learning that first-year head coach Will Cantrell accepted a job at Columbus North.

Cantrell, who went 4-18 in his only season at the Lions’ helm will be varsity assistant for the Bulldogs.

“It was just one of those things where it was a really good opportunity for me personally, for my career and my future and for my family,” Cantrell said. “I had no idea this opportunity would come up when we moved here, so it’s not ideal to come to a place and only stay for a year, but we are thankful for the opportunity and thankful for the people we’ve met.”

Cantrell is looking forward to working with and learning from Paul Ferguson, who has compiled a record of 217-108 in 14 years of coaching. In addition to the varsity assistant role, he will also be teaching PE.

When he took the Salem job, Cantrell experienced his first taste of Indiana high school basketball. Even coaching in a pandemic he said he could feel how special the sport is here and how much it means to people.

He said he learned a lot during the 2020-21 season.

“I learned a lot about the ins and outs of Indiana basketball,” he said. “Being new to the state, there is a lot to learn.”

Cantrell said he would have liked to have gotten more than four wins with the group that he had at Salem, but looking beyond the wins, he felt like the team improved in other ways.

“There are types of improvements and successes that most people can’t see,” he said. “There was some relational success with the coaching staff and the boys as we went along. We had some young players who got a lot of experience that will hopefully pay off next year and in the future for them. There are a lot of things I am proud of that most people wouldn’t recognize or understand.

“Our successes this year didn’t come in the form of wins, but rather came in how we improved throughout the year in practice and what we learned about becoming a successful program in the future. The message I pounded into them all year is that there is no substitute for hard work. Unless they are willing to put the hard work in, they will never achieve the goals on the court that they want to.”

Cantrell met with the team on April 26, and admitted that was just as hard as making the decision to leave.

“Those are always tough meetings,” he said. “I know it was only one season, but you spend a lot of hours with those kids over the course of a season and relationships are built. It was difficult to tell them, but in the same breath I think they understood kind of where I was coming from. I was thankful to be able to meet with them and tell them face-to-face.”

The school board is expected to accept Cantrell’s resignation at the May 10, school board meeting and Salem Athletic Director Hank Weedin said the search for a new head coach is already underway as the job opening was posted on Monday, May 3.


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