At the midway point in the season, the Glenelg Country boys basketball team is still getting settled into the demanding Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference after moving up from the B Conference.
Coach Kevin Quinlan has continually preached a "one quarter at a time" approach, and Tuesday it helped produce the program's biggest win to date when the Dragons (7-6) upset perennial league power and No. 6 St. Frances, 57-55.
For Quinlan, who led the Dragons to the B Conference crown and a 28-3 mark in his first season last year, there was little time to celebrate – the team travels to Loyola on Friday.
Growing up in a military family, Quinlan is a true basketball globetrotter. He started playing the sport when he was 7 and living in Belgium. After returning to the United States for nine years, playing and graduating at Bowie High School, he went on to play for a small university in Munich.
After that, he earned two bachelor degrees at Maryland before getting a master's degree at George Mason. Prior to taking the job at Glenelg Country, where he also teaches science, Quinlan coached three years at Thomas Edison in Alexandria, Va., and he also spent one season each as an assistant coach at Sidwell Friends (D.C.) and T.C. Williams, also in Alexandria.
When he's not teaching or coaching, Quinlan enjoys spending time with his daughter, Chloe', who turned 18 in December and is a biomedical engineering major at Johns Hopkins.
How does the win over St. Frances stack up with others you've enjoyed as a coach?
I take every game one quarter at a time, and I'm very particular with the way I plan practice, too, so I don't really look ahead or look back a whole lot. I'm really proud of our guys. I thought they really came together. We're pushing them to play as a team and make plays off their teammates and that sort of stuff. I'm a very defensive-minded coach – we spend a ton of time on defense – and our philosophy is that everything we do springs from our defense. That takes a special kid, it takes a special mindset because it's not easy to do. I think the guys are coming around, and it showed.
What did you tell your team after the win?
I told them they have a lot in them. I think our guys are just scratching the surface. A lot of it is about playing as hard as they can all the time and doing it all for the team, getting out of themselves and doing it for the group. I told them I was proud of them. To be honest, I've been pretty frustrated with our group recently because I just didn't feel like we've been out there swinging. I'm not completely obsessed with winning. Obviously I love to win and I'm competitive and everything. But I feel like if we go out and go toe-to-toe and just fight, and if we don't come out on the right end and do lose, then we can go away fine. If we take a loss, really take one on the chin and didn't go out there and swing, we didn't play tough, didn't play as a team – that's what makes me toss and turn at night.
What has been the biggest challenge moving up to the A Conference?
The biggest challenge is that each team is very well coached and each team has top-flight athletes that can play basketball. So our scouting has intensified and our practices and preparations have picked up a notch. It's one of the best conferences in the East Coast, so we're really excited about it. For the coaches, I think we knew exactly how tough it would be and I think the kids are learning how tough it is. When I was hired, I was asked what kind of schedule I would like to play and I said you have to play the best to be the best. ... Outside of the conference, we've played some very tough competition, because we're looking to sharpen the saw for later in the season.
Moving forward in the A Conference, what will be the keys in maintaining consistency in the program over the years?
It takes a number of things and the first is getting the support from the school. The school needs to understand exactly what it takes for the program to be successful for an extended period of time. We also need to find kids who are good fits for our school curriculum and we want to find kids that want to spend a ton of time in the gym.
When did you know you wanted to become a coach?
I started playing basketball when I was 7 when I lived in Belgium, and I've basically always wanted to coach, but it took a while. I had my daughter and wanted to be around for her. I wanted to get my career in order and also, I was a little bit of a nut job as a player. I needed to get away and separate from being a player and being a coach. Over time, I just reflected on things and I guess about eight years ago was the right time.
BONUS QUESTION: All the time you spent living abroad, how has that helped shape who you are today?
To me, it's very humbling. When you live in the States, you really get kind of near-sighted on just what's around in our society and our culture. For three years when I was over there, we lived off a little village in Belgium and it was humbling. I had to learn French and there was completely different customs. It looked different, the weather was different, so everything was different and it kind of puts you in your place. But you find a way to survive, to make friends and all that sort of stuff. When I was a little older, I lived in Munich and got to travel extensively – Spain, Czech, Italy and other places. I came back humbled. The world is really special and it gives you a different perspective.