By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
Belton boys basketball needed a major change in thinking.
And as far as Tigers athletic director Rodney Southern is concerned, that change starts with Charlie Lewis.
"The big thing for us, we've got to have a culture change in our basketball program," Southern said. "That's the No. 1 thing."
Lewis was approved as the new Belton head boys basketball coach Tuesday, two weeks after former coach John Osborn resigned to take an assistant coaching position at Hurst L.D. Bell High School outside of Fort Worth.
"I'm excited about this great opportunity. The kids here are great kids and this community in a wonderful community, and so it's time for us to be about winning — that's the expectation," Lewis said. "I'm one that believes in winning, hard work, getting our kids to put in the time and the effort. There's no excuses. ... The community demands that — they want that."
In five years as head basketball coach, Osborn led Belton to a 53-102 overall and 13-55 in district play, as the Tigers had just one winning season at 16-15 in the 2009-10 season. Last year, the Tigers struggled with a youthful roster and finished 5-26 and 1-13 in District 12-5A play.
"(This hiring is) so our community can once again be about winning," Lewis said. "We're winning in football, we're winning in baseball, we're winning in soccer. There's no reason for us not to be winning in basketball."
In his five years at Belton, Lewis has been both a football and basketball assistant coach, serving as head freshman coach this past season as well as running backs coach for the football team. Prior to last year, Lewis was one of several freshmen basketball coaches along with coaching outside linebackers in football. He also served as an assistant track coach.
"It's kind of one of those things, we recognized the culture around here had to change and I was in football and also in basketball, and a lot of our football guys weren't involved with the basketball program," Lewis said. "And we needed to tie them in together, bring that back together, because our numbers have drastically gone down and we need to improve that."
Southern, also the head football coach, agreed whole-heartedly.
"There's some kids that, there's no doubt in my mind, that are football kids that can help our basketball team, just like there's a couple of basketball kids that are now wanting to play football." Southern said. "And we've got to give them that opportunity, but you have to create that culture where they're comfortable doing that."
Last season, Belton especially struggled in District 12-5A play, losing its last 12 games including the back half of the district slate by an average of 20.6 points per game.
Despite the struggles for wins on the court, Southern said the change ultimately came down to what was best for the entire Belton athletic family.
Charlie understands how to deal with kids. And you're going to have a variety of kids in any sport, but Charlie has bought in 100-percent into our athletic program, too," Southern said. "Our basketball kids are going to be involved in track, because it's going to help them be better basketball players."
Among those returning for Belton include 6-foot-3 senior post Daniel Mills, a 12-5A all-district first-teamer who averaged an area-high 20.8 points and 9.8 rebounds per game this season, and 6-0 senior guard Thomas Barnes.