Longtime JV coach takes over Southeastern boys varsity program

John O’Laughlin has been busy in June making decisions he hasn’t had to make before. After 30 years of coaching junior varsity and middle school teams, he’s a varsity boys basketball coach.

O’Laughlin was hired in late May to lead Southeastern after serving the program for eight years, including the last four as the JV coach.

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“I was just waiting for the right time,” said O’Laughlin, a 1983 graduate of Mechanicsburg High School. “I enjoyed being JV coach and helping. But I just figured at this time in my life I’m ready to take that step and be a varsity coach.”

O’Laughlin takes over for Brian Hecker, who resigned after four seasons. Hecker led the Trojans to a district title in 2016, but last year’s team had key injuries and struggled to a 3-20 finish.

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“Brian’s done a great job of leaving the program in good shape,” O’Laughlin said. “I know our record wasn’t what we wanted last year, but the pieces are there and the foundation is there that he set.”

The Trojans will have seniors Charlie Bertemes, Owen Flannery, Timmy Tincher and Ben Schuler. Bertemes was all-Ohio Heritage Conference and all-Southwest District honorable mention in Division IV. The top returning juniors are 6-foot-4 Bryce Grimm and Tucker Ericksen. Grimm missed much of last season with an injury as did then-senior Chase Billet.

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“I’ve got a good group of kids,” O’Laughlin said. “They’ll work hard and try to do everything you ask them to do.”

O’Laughlin also has a strong freshman class to look forward to. He’s hoping they can take a year to mature on JV, but he’s not ruling out some help from that class on varsity this year.

“I’m hoping to keep them on JV, but I’m also hoping they push me to make that decision,” O’Laughlin said. “A lot of that’s on them. If I pull one of them up, they’ve got to play. I’m not going to let them watch.”

O’Laughlin has also coached JV teams at Mechanicsburg and Triad. But after eight seasons in the Southeastern program, he knows what works and doesn’t expect big changes in style of play.

“Main thing is we’ll play aggressive man-to-man defense,” he said. “Offensively, we’ll push it if it’s there.

“We’re just going to try to build on the tradition that’s already been laid.”

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