KaWambee Gaines, a 1992 Springfield South graduate, is expected to be approved this week as Springfield High School’s new girls basketball coach. CONTRIBUTED

South grad, boys assistant coach taking over Springfield girls basketball program

KaWambee Gaines, a 1992 South graduate, takes over for Darris Gattis, who went 29-67 in four seasons as head coach. Gaines is expected to be approved by the Springfield City Schools Board of Education on Thursday evening.

“I prayed it on and everything just kind of came to fruition,” he said. “I’m so excited to get started.”

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Last season, Gaines was on the Wildcats boys basketball staff, serving as the junior varsity head coach. He also serves as the quarterbacks coach for the Wildcats’ football team. He also works in the school’s security office.

“I get to see the kids every day,” Gaines said. “It’s a good thing.”

He previously served as the head women’s basketball coach at Clark State Community College and was an assistant at West Virginia State University.

Gaines, an all-conference selection at Earlham College in 1993, grew up in a basketball family. His father Mike Gaines previously coached at both North and Yellow Springs. His brother Ajamu Gaines was the NCAA Division II National Player of the Year in 2000 at the University of Charleston (W. Va.).

“Everything I know about basketball is because of (my Dad),” Gaines said. “My Dad was a gym rat coming up and always kept me in the gym.”

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Gaines was a member of the coaching staff when Springfield North shared the Greater Western Ohio Conference title in 2004 with Beavercreek — the last time a Springfield girls basketball team won a league championship.

The Wildcats went 9-15 overall and 1-11 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference National East Division last season. The division is loaded with powerhouse programs, including D-I regional finalist Centerville, two district qualifiers in Wayne and Fairmont, and longtime state power Beavercreek.

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“I was joking with someone the other day and said ‘We’re playing in the ACC’,” Gaines said. “We just have to focus on us. We need to get better not only as a team, but individually, so we can start to compete.”

Springfield graduated two varsity players from last year’s squad and returns two-time All-Ohio guard Mickayla Perdue, who led the GWOC in both scoring (20.8) and steals (5.4). Perdue has received dozens of Division I scholarship offers, but told Gaines she wants the program to become more like a family in her final two years with the program.

“That’s Springfield,” he said. “That’s what we’ve always been about is family. That’s how it starts — me caring for you, you caring for me and that makes me play harder. Hearing her say that made me feel even better about getting the job.”

Gaines wants the Wildcats program to be respected, regarded and relevant, he said.

“It’s going to take all of us, the coaching staff, the community, the kids — we have to put in the extra work,” Gaines said. “We’re going to have to get that Wildcat toughness. It all starts there.”

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The Wildcats will play an up-tempo style, pressing on defense to get easy buckets in transition, Gaines said. They’ll also focus on getting stops in the half court and rebounding.

“If we don’t get easy ones, we’re going to do what we do,” he said. “We’re going to get up and down. We’re going to press. I believe when you’re playing good teams, you can’t just let them do what they do. You’ve got to do something to counter what they do.”

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