PONTIAC — What's Tom Garriott love about coaching?

"Everyone asks me that," said the Hoopeston native, who has been named the boys basketball coach at Pontiac High School after serving as that school's girls coach last season.

"I just love basketball. I just like the teaching part of it, watching them grow as young adults, getting better on and off the court, learning how to support each other and put the team before themselves."

Garriott — who replaces Durrell Robinson, the new coach at Danville — inherits a program that lost seven seniors from a 17-13 squad. The future looks bright to Garriott.

"We've got some shooters," he said. "We've got some athleticism."

Garriott has high hopes for three-year letterman Ryan Weir, a 6-foot-3 guard-forward.

"He has an inside-outside game," Garriott said. "He can finish. He can shoot 3s. He's a leader.

"Carter Dawson, same thing...a 6-5 point guard...can shoot the lights out. Cobi Parra is quick and athletic."

Other key returnees are Matt Murphy and Max Gschwendtner although the latter tore his ACL on Friday and won't return until December. Promising newcomers include 6-4 lefty Adam Weir.

"It looks like we're going to have an inside and an outside game," Garriott said. "I'm excited about it."

Garriott said fans can expect to see an up-tempo offense and a run-and-jump press on defense.

"I like for our defense to be our offense," he said. "That's what we've been working on in open gyms for 45 minutes every day."

Garriott believes his roster has enough height to be strong in the half-court.

"I've got some bigs in here who can finish," he said. "I'm going to run a lot of inside stuff, too, when we have to slow the ball down."

Prior to coaching the Pontiac girls to a 14-17 record last season, Garriott served as a head or assistant girls coach at six other schools including Illinois Wesleyan, Central Catholic, University High, Prairie Central and Champaign St. Thomas More

Replacing Garriott as the Pontiac girls coach will be Brad Harmon, who has made coaching stops at Flanagan, Tri-Valley, Robert Morris in Springfield and U High.

"Both of these gentlemen bring a wealth of experience to our programs," said Pontiac athletic director Gary Brunner. "We are really excited to see this next chapter in Pontiac basketball." 

Garriott calls Harmon "a good guy and a good coach. We're actually working together. We're going to have a clinic in the fall, boys and girls. We're going to have a good rapport here."

Garriott previously coached boys as an Olympia assistant in 2009-10.

"Everyone thinks there is a big difference (between coaching boys and girls)," he said. "There's not a big difference."

Garriott has collected coaching ideas from coaches he has worked for including Debbie Coffman, Bob Morris, Gerry Thornton, Mia Smith and Jill Hutchison. 

"I've tried to surround myself with highly successful basketball coaches," he said. "I think I have. Jill Hutchison was a huge influence on me 20 years ago. I don't think I would have started coaching basketball if it wasn't for Jill Hutchison."

It was Hutchison, the former Illinois State women's coach, who brought Garriott in as a basketball camp volunteer.

"I try to keep in touch with all those coaches who have taught me along the way," said Garriott, whose assistant coach will be former Fieldcrest all-stater Taylor Baxter.

Other changes: Pontiac also has named new coaches in volleyball (Haley Fairfield) and wrestling (Mark Payne). Fairfield replaces Kelly Audia while Payne follows Corey Christenson.   

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Contact Randy Sharer at (309) 820-3405. Follow him on Twitter: @PG_sharer



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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