Playing baseball in the street is all Denton’s Nick Buck would ever look forward to as a 5-year old kid.
Now, at 30 years old, Buck is looking forward to injecting some of his youthful strategies into Denton High as he has been named as the school’s next head coach after spending this season as an assistant coach under recently retired Glen Harrison.
Buck spent six years at Ryan before going to Denton, where he learned the ins and outs of being a head coach under Harrison, with whom he saw eye to eye from the start.
“After he got to know me and we realized we were really a lot alike, he started grooming me for the head coaching position showing me the behind-the-scenes kind of stuff,” Buck said. “We’re both kind of laid-back and we have our opinions on the way things should go. ... He always said that I reminded him a lot of him without the bad things. I guess he was a little fiery as a young coach.”
Being named a head coach at such a young age, Buck said he was proud of his accomplishment and credited Principal Dan Ford and athletic coordinator Kevin Atkinson for believing in his approach.
“They really have to believe in me to give a young guy like me a team that needs some rebuilding,” Buck said. “You basically just have to take the shot and run with it. The key thing for me was I’ve been here a year. I kind of took this year as ... sit back and evaluate what needs to change. That’s what I told the committee. We’ve got talented kids here. A couple of changes here and there and the new district we’re in, there’s no reason whatsoever we can’t be a playoff-caliber team next year.”
This past season the Broncos won only two district games, and during his evaluation, Buck decided the team is ready to re-evaluate where it wants to be next season and that starts with a winning attitude.
“I think we underachieved this year,” Buck said. “We had some opportunities that we couldn’t capitalize on, and I think that has to do a lot with the atmosphere. The kids aren’t used to winning. They kind of have that loser’s mentality right now. It’s much like football is doing. Since the first day I walked over there, the atmosphere has changed. I’m just trying to repeat what [Atkinson] done over there with a little twist over here with the baseball program.”
Buck, a Ryan baseball product, started out in the Denton Boys Baseball youth leagues. He played shortstop and pitcher during his playing days, which included a year at Odessa College and a year at Richland College before finishing his final two years at McNeese State in Louisiana.
He then came back to his roots at Ryan and learned under head coach Bret Warnack. It was under his guidance that Buck learned how to set and meet expectations.
That attitude and accountability are areas of focus on which Buck wants to see an improved focus, which he thinks, in turn, will lead to improved success.
“We need to spend a little more time on pitching and especially our offense,” Buck said. “We struggled on both of those things this year. Defensively we played well, but I think pitching and hitting are the things we need to spend the majority [of time] on as far as weights and core-body stuff like that. Next year, we’re going to try to incorporate more baseball knowledge, spending time on the smaller details, and not so much just the skills, is going to help us out tremendously.”
Next season, the Broncos will make the transition to District 5-5A, losing Guyer, Lake Dallas and Trophy Club Nelson — all playoff teams this past season — while picking up Fort Worth Chisholm Trail, Saginaw Boswell and Saginaw — also all playoff teams in 2014 — to go along with the remaining Fort Worth Brewer, Wichita Falls and Wichita Falls Rider.
With the Broncos’ district change, Buck expects big things from his team next season. They’ll have to replace three key seniors, but with the majority of the team’s youth getting playing time this past season, the summer and fall present opportunities for strengthening and maturation.
“We’re leaving a really good district and heading into a district that isn’t as baseball heavy,” Buck said. “I’ll be very disappointed if we’re not in a playoff opportunity next year. There are high hopes and high expectations. If we don’t set our expectations high enough, the kids are going to be content and I felt like that’s how the kids were last year. I don’t want the kids to be content. That’s why we set our goals high.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.