By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

Tradition and winning basketball have gone hand-in-hand at Holcomb High School, dating back to the days when Dave Novack was on the bench coaching the Longhorns' boys program for 18 years.

Few are more aware of that tradition than Chad Novack, son of the legendary HHS coach who led the Longhorns from 1981 to 1998.

The younger Novack, 32, will have the opportunity to put his own stamp on the program after officially being approved by the Holcomb USD 363 Board of Education on Monday night as the new head boys basketball coach/physical education teacher.

"Yes, I'm excited," said the younger Novack.

Prior to getting hired by Holcomb, Novack spent the past seven seasons as head boys basketball coach for Southwestern Heights High School in Plains, compiling an 80-69 (.537) record.

"I think every coach always has varied thoughts about coming back and coaching where you played," Novack said. "The opportunity to come back to my hometown, move closer to my family as well as my wife's family, and coach a program with a great tradition, were the principal reasons for my interest."

Novack is a 1997 HHS graduate, and went on to play basketball for two seasons at Garden City Community College under Kent Davison (1998) and Jeremy Cox (1999). From there, he transferred to Fort Hays State University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in education.

He began his teaching/coaching career at Southwestern Heights in the 2002-03 school year, when he was hired as the junior high boys basketball coach. He was in that position for two years before being promoted to the high school boys basketball position.

"I've been fortunate to have learned so much under him (Dave Novack)," the younger Novack said. "I was always around him when I was just learning to walk. I then got to play for him, and had more opportunity at the college level to learn under coach Davison and Cox. I've had one of the best high school coaches here as well in Barry Mellen (Southwestern Heights girls head coach), and have learned so much from him, too."

Novack said there are three specific components to his basketball philosophy.

First, he wants to get the kids to work hard at all times, believing this will carry over into their school work and past high school.

Next, he wants to get the kids to act right and represent the school and community with a sense of pride.

He also wants to teach the kids to work together and put aside any differences they might have. In his opinion, that is the only way a person can be successful, both as players and as citizens.

Novack replaces Scott Stegman, another Holcomb native and HHS graduate who had been Holcomb's head coach for the past nine seasons.

Stegman previously said he was asked to resign on March 11 by HHS Principal/Athletic Director Jarrod Stoppel, saying that Stoppel told him that the school would like for the program to go in a different direction, although he didn't go into any specifics.

Stegman had a 151-57 (.736) record during his tenure, including a 14-9 mark this past season.

Stegman said he told Stoppel he wanted to think about whether or not he would resign.

A little more than two weeks later, an email dated March 28 from the USD 363 district office surfaced.

The email was obtained by The Telegram and said, "USD 363 will have an open position for the 2011-2012 school year at Holcomb High School for a P.E., and health teacher and head boys basketball coach."

Stegman has not yet resigned his coaching or teaching positions with the district.

According to USD 363 Interim Superintendent Demitry Evancho, the board has taken no formal action on Stegman's supplemental contract for the 2011 school year.

There has been controversy in the Holcomb community about not bringing Stegman back, Novack said he hoped everybody could begin with a fresh start upon his arrival.

"I think the entire community, the kids, everyone, needs a fresh start," Novack said.

"I have a lot of respect for Scott. We've talked a lot through the years, and he's done a good job. Whatever happened, it's unfortunate. I hope we can get past that and move on. That would be in everyone's best interest, especially the kids."

The email about the open basketball/P.E. position was sent March 28.

On April 1, Novack was interviewed for the position with the search process being overseen by Stoppel.

"Our principal and athletic director (Stoppel) handled the interviews, and I reviewed the candidate he recommended," Evancho said today. "

He (Novack) is a well qualified physical education teacher and a good basketball candidate who has had a good record. We're fortunate to get a top-notch person who was available."

Novack and his wife Aaron, have one child, a boy, Eli, 11 months.