Betterment makes Langville and Thiele girls best Chesapeake turns around Coach of the Year


Dennis Thiele has proved that the first time was no fluke.

His first time around as girls basketball coach at Chesapeake, Thiele inherited a team that went 1-21 in 1983 and led it to five, 10 and 13 victories over the next three seasons -- the last two extending into the playoffs.

Theile departed following the 1985-86 season, which ended with a loss to South River in the Region IV finals, and Chesapeake didn't have a winning record or make the playoffs again. It was a dry spell during which the Cougars won as few as three games in 1988-89 and no more than eight.

Thiele returned to the program this winter, this time taking over an 8-14 team. And again, he worked his magic.

With just one senior -- guard/forward Denise Perrone -- and seemingly little reason to expect any improvement, he guided Chesapeake to 10 wins and the sixth seeding in the Class 4A, Region IV playoffs.

And though the Cougars (10-12) finished below .500, they were competitive enough to stay within 10 points or less of such playoff teams as Severna Park, Annapolis, Broadneck and Northeast. They also had victories over Arundel (57-55), and Southern (56-52), which both took part in postseason play.

"Back then, I had a different nucleus to work with. Now, we had scattered ability on the team and they needed to be drawn together," said Thiele, The Baltimore Sun's Anne Arundel County Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.

"We didn't have one particular star, except Denise. We leaned on her for senior leadership and support. And it was as if her parting gift for the team was giving them a nice push-off in the right direction."

Thiele said he first realized that the Cougars were heading that way during a 52-51 loss to Lansdowne in the finals of their Christmas tournament.

"Even though we lost according to the score, that was the only thing we lost. We gained every bit of confidence that we needed," he said.

"The girls looked at each other after that and said, 'Hey, we can do it.' They needed that confidence. And the people leaving the game knew we had outplayed Lansdowne, and they were a ranked team."

Thiele revealed his priorities before the season began, and "having fun" topped the list. He also wanted the Cougars to develop team chemistry through camaraderie and to work hard.

"If you put those first three together," he said in December, "winning takes care of itself."

It certainly did.

"It turned out that way exactly. I couldn't have asked for more," said Thiele, whose team was 10-8 before losing its last four games.

His knack for coming in and quickly resuscitating the program hasn't gone unnoticed by rival coaches. After Chesapeake gave Severna Park all it could handle before losing, 40-32, last month, the Falcons' Kevin McGrath said, "He's got them going again. Denny did it a couple years back, and I anticipated them coming back and being pretty good."

So did Thiele, even if few others wanted to believe it.

"I feel like we're back now," he said.

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