Preston Frame is no stranger to the Porter County Conference.
The 2008 Kouts graduate was a multi-sport athlete. The former Mustang point guard is now the man in charge at LaCrosse, taking over for Jeff Mitzner.
After graduating from Manchester College, Frame has had coaching stints at the middle school and junior varsity levels, most recently as an assistant at North Judson. Frame was originally going to be an assistant at LaCrosse but after the original hire fell through, the opportunity for Frame came up.
"The biggest factor has always been just lack of experience in my other interviews," he said. "The goal has always been to be a head coach and to get this opportunity this early is awesome. Ever since I realized my playing days were over, I've wanted to get back into basketball. Being in the PCC again is huge and it's one of the best small school conferences in Indiana, in my opinion."
LaCrosse could have one of the youngest coaching staffs in the state. His varsity assistant is 2007 Kouts grad Marty Rasala and Dusty Young, a 2008 LaCrosse grad is the JV coach.
"I think being a younger staff is a big advantage," Frame said. "We can relate to these kids are going through because we've been in their shoes before. It hasn't been too long since we were the ones playing."
Frame joins Joe Wagner (South Central), Mike Grennes (Hebron) and Matt McKay (Boone Grove) as new coaches in the conference. Among the group, only Wagner is new to the PCC. Grennes has been an assistant at Morgan and Hebron and McKay is back on the Wolves bench, where he was the coach from 1993 to 2016.
At Kouts, Frame played for Marty Gaff and coached under Phil Shabi at North Judson. He also coached with Bill Shepherd at Judson.
"Those were really good guys to learn from. They've all had success," Frame said. "For me, coaching is coaching and then there's the other stuff. I'm an organized guy and have all my things written down, so I've been able to stay on top of everything."
A longtime assistant, Grennes is still getting used to the odds and ends that come with being the head coach.
"It's a much different role when it comes to all the other things," he said. "It's something new I've been learning to do as well as getting to know the kids, too."
Grennes has plenty of help with the Hawks in former Hebron coach and current athletic director John Steinhilber as well as varsity assistant Mike DeFries, who is also a former Hebron head coach.
"I'm extremely fortunate to have John there for me, because if I need anything I can turn to him and get his help. It's been great to be able to ask and receive," Grennes said. "With Mike, he's been at the top spot before, so I get a lot of good information from him, too."
Wagner comes over to S.C. from LaPorte, where he was freshman coach for eight years and JV head coach and varsity assistant for four. A LaPorte resident, Wagner applied for the job soon after he heard of Eric Branz's departure.
"Back to the spring, I had a feel of how tight-knit and genuine everyone was and that was a draw for me," Wagner said. "I've always felt like South Central kids had a workers' mentality, a blue-collar type. I like my teams to play extremely hard and with those mentalities, getting kids to do that wouldn't be too hard and I'd be able to get them to buy in."
Having coached under Tom Wells at LaPorte, Wagner said one thing stood out about Wells that he wants to replicate.
"One of the things I took from Tom is how good he was at not allowing things to get to him," Wagner said. "If you allow outside influences to bring you down, you won't last long and one of the things Tom was able to do was let things roll off the shoulder. He didn't let negative influences in and that's one of the things I hope to take with me."
At Boone, McKay is back after a year as a varsity girls' assistant for the Wolves. McKay had coached the previous 24 years with Boone's boys team.
"My last year was my son Ian's last year, so that seemed like a natural point to maybe end it," he said. "He's firmly established at college now and it's just my wife and I. She and I aren't ready to retire from teaching yet, so it was a good time to get back in. When the opportunity came open again, I thought about it for a day or two and decided to give it another go."
He takes over a team that went 0-22 last season.
"My wife was certainly ready for me to go back and do it," McKay said. "Basketball has been such a big part of our lives for so long and we didn't realize how empty it really was without it. I'm not 60 yet, so I think I'm still young enough where I feel like I can contribute."