When Joe Hood resigned as Warren Central’s girls’ basketball coach in early April, he felt the team was heading in a positive direction.
The program has a new facility, a new locker room and a strong junior class returning, and it will add a new, experienced head coach for next season. Anthony Hickey Sr. was announced as the Lady Dragons’ next head coach Wednesday.
“I saw they were on the uprise. Joe got them going in the right direction and I thought, ‘What the heck? I definitely could accept that challenge to take them to an even further level,’ ” Hickey said in a phone interview with the Daily News. “ ... When it opened, I thought maybe that was a sign. I talked it over with my family and I just felt it was a good fit for me. I enjoy being at Warren Central. I’ve got genuine people around me, so that makes it a whole lot easier.”
Hickey makes the move from the boys’ team, where he served as an assistant under William Unseld for the past three seasons. During that time, the Dragons claimed three Region 4 championships and advanced to the state semifinals the first two seasons, before having this season’s Sweet Sixteen canceled before it started due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re very excited about the experience that he has working with both girls and boys,” Warren Central athletic director Jason Esters said in a video announcing Hickey’s hiring. “He spent the last three years on the boys’ bench with coach Unseld, but we’re very excited for our girls, for our parents, for the community, for the school and we’re excited for what he has to build on with the foundation that coach Hood and his staff has put together the past several years.”
Hickey was an assistant with the Bowling Green girls’ program during the 2016-17 season and worked at Christian County before that from 2003-16. He was an assistant on Christian County’s boys’ team from 2003-07 and was the girls’ head coach from 2007-16. His Lady Colonels won three District 8 titles and missed only one Region 2 Tournament during that stretch. Hickey’s teams advanced to the region final twice.
Hood was at the helm for seven seasons, compiling a 73-131 record with two winning seasons. The Lady Dragons struggled with a combined six wins over two seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19, before rebounding last year to finish 11-20. Warren Central went 4-4 in regular-season District 14 play and finished in a three-way tie for second. The Lady Dragons drew the No. 4 seed and fell to Greenwood in the district tournament opener. Warren Central went 6-6 in its final 12 games, with wins over District 14 teams Greenwood, South Warren and Warren East during that stretch.
“I think what it’ll take to take the next step is just more confidence in being able to win,” Hickey said. “Prior to last year, they didn’t have a lot of success with winning, so getting that little taste and continuing that, that brings more confidence to instill in yourself. That’s what I want to bring to the team, is that you’ve done this, so let’s build on it.”
Hickey, who works as a liaison at Warren Central, says he wants to emphasize academics while also helping his players to reach the next level if it’s their goal.
The Lady Dragons graduate three seniors from last season’s roster in Krisheana Johnson, Taelor Leach and Asia Anthony. Johnson was the team’s second-leading scorer at 10.4 points per game and Leach was the leading rebounder at 7.9 per game. Warren Central returns a strong core, led by leading scorer La Auhnni Lewis, who averaged 11.9 points per game.
“It definitely helps that they’ve tasted a little winning, so I’m sure they’re eager to get even more,” Hickey said. “I’ve experienced it on both sides of girls’ and boys’, and I’ve learned along the way and that you’re going to have to change a lot of things to make things better. Me as an assistant, I learned so much and I’m not through learning, and I’ll learn from them as they’ll learn from me.”
The KHSAA has been in a dead period due to the coronavirus pandemic since March 13. In addition to the cancellation of the girls’ and boys’ Sweet Sixteens, the KHSAA was forced to cancel spring sports. The dead period has since been extended until the end of May, with another announcement with guidelines for moving forward expected closer to the end of the month.
Hickey is planning to get a staff in place and reach out to his players to see how they and their families are doing, with hopes of being ready to go when teams across the state are able to get back to work.
“I’m ready for the challenge. I’ve just got to take my time with what we have in front of us,” Hickey said. “When the KHSAA says we’re ready to go, I want to hit the ground running, so hopefully I have an opportunity between now and then to put together a staff that I can believe in to help these girls to get to another level.”