White House High School opted for familiarity when filling its boys’ and girls’ basketball coaching vacancies this offseason – both in history and proximity.
White House announced this week the hire of former Blue Devil player Caleb Cook as its head boys’ coach and the promotion of Kelly Smelcer, a White House grad herself, to head girls’ coach after serving as an assistant last year.
“It’s always been a dream of mine since my first year of college (at Western Kentucky University) when I decided I wanted to teach and coach,” Cook began. “The job comes with a lot of responsibility. Life exists long after basketball and I want to instill some life lessons that hopefully these players can carry on when they’re long gone from the school.”
Cook returns to White House, where he attended through his junior year of high school, after coaching basketball at nearby Christian Community School the past two seasons. He was also the school’s athletic director and served as interim assistant principal the past year. He will hold a teaching position at White House.
A part of the first ever graduating class at CCS after transferring to the school in 2002, Cook takes over a Blue Devils program that went 15-15 a year ago under coach Gary Smith before being bounced in the first round of the District 9-AA tournament. Smith is hanging up his whistle to become the school’s next AD.
“I’m a motion guy when it comes to the offensive end of the floor,” Cook said of his preferred style of play. “We’re going to play a majority man-to-man on the defensive end of the floor. We’ll play to a system and all of our guys will have roles within that system, playing the right way.”
Smelcer has a more immediate history with White House. In fact, she’s coached the team’s rising sophomores since they were in seventh grade at White House Middle School, where she was prior to last year’s position as a high school assistant.
The 1994 White House graduate, who went on to study at University of Tennessee, said that familiarity will help as she turns up the pace of play for the Blue Devils.
“We’ll definitely be more of an up-tempo team,” said Smelcer, a biology teacher at the high school. “We’ll look to push the ball as much as we can offensively, which will feed off of our defensive play.”
The White House girls finished 3-22 and winless in 9-AA last year under retiring longtime coach Jeff Bennett. Crucial to the turnaround is invigorating the program’s talented youth, Smelcer said.
She’s already had a hand in the process as former middle school and JV coaches.
“We’re starting to turn things around and there’s better days ahead,” Smelcer said. “That’s the biggest key, getting these girls together at a younger age so when they get up here some of the groundwork is already laid.”