Dustin McKinney is back where he started.
Early in his coaching career, McKinney coached boys basketball.
After a lengthy stint of coaching girls basketball, it was announced last week that he has been named the new head coach of the Red Boiling Springs boys basketball program.
“I’m really excited,” McKinney said. “It’s like, you’re thinking about what can we do to get there (to experience success). Your whole mindset is switched. We need to get ready for summer camp, but it’s brand new.
“I’m inheriting a very good situation. Coach (Andrew) Mullinix left it in really good shape. Let’s refocus and try to get this program to another level.”
Mullinix led the program for three seasons, a tenure that began with a winless campaign after seven seniors graduated the previous season. The Bulldogs combined for 13 wins over the past two campaigns, which included back-to-back appearances in the regional tournament.
“Usually, when you take over a program, you’re starting from scratch basically,” McKinney said. “We’re not doing that. I’m stepping into a good situation. Last year, they just had things that didn’t go their way. They had injuries. I got to watch them a couple of times. They really impressed me.
“They have potential. They have talent. I’m just trying to get them over the hump. There’s a bunch of kids in the program chomping at the bit to get started. The excitement is there.”
Mullinix resigned on March 10.
“We had talked ,” McKinney said. “(Mullinix) had expressed he might get out. I thought about it. I talked to my wife. I thought about it and prayed about it. These boys, I feel like they needed me to be honest. I thought I had the time and resources and the ability to get these boys over the hump and get them an experience they’ll remember for the rest of their life.”
McKinney served as Mullinix’s assistant coach during the 2020-21 season before spending the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Westmoreland.McKinney has remained as a teacher at Red Boiling Springs since he was relieved of his duties as the high school and middle school girls head basketball coach following the 2019-20 season, despite the high-school program winning 23 games and reaching the regional semifinals during his final campaign.
McKinney was informed at the time that the unexpected decision pertained to the school wanting the program to go in a different direction.
“When you’re doing junior high and high school, it’s a grind,” McKinney said. “You start in October. You’re not getting done until February or March. It kind of refreshed me and gave me some new ideas to carry over into this spot.
“I’m motivated to go. I’ll take what I’ve gotten (over the past three seasons). I’m refreshed and ready to go … I want it to be special.”
However, McKinney actually initiially served as the RBS boys middle school head coach and as the assistant coach for the RBS boys high-school program.
“I started out doing boys for six years, doing middle school and then helping Coach (Michael) Owens at the high school,” McKinney said. “I never saw myself coaching girls, but then, Coach (Larry) White (the long-time RBS girls head coach) got out, and it opened up. I did that for six years (resulting in three 20-win seasons and four regional appearances).
“I’ve been wanted to get back in boys. I feel like I’m better suited for boys.”
He’s familiar with his new players, having coached that group as freshman. The Bulldogs didn’t have any seniors this season and will return all five starters, led by leading scorer and first-team all-district selection Colton Copas, in addition to fellow juniors Chris Hackney (also an all-district selection), Aubrey Link (all-district), Joseph Birdwell and Riley Thompson.
“I was coaching middle-school girls when this (rising) senior group was in eighth grade,” McKinney said. “I got to see them play and develop. I have a relationship with all of them. I’ve caught a few games.
“When the job came open, a lot of them came to me to see if I was interested. They’re excited about the future. That kind of sparked me.”
The number of players in the boys program at the high school and middle-school level is currently higher than normal.
“We’re going to have a bunch of kids,” McKinney said. “It’s almost 18 kids trying out at the end of May. Coach Mullinix did a good job of promoting (the program). On the junior-high team, I’m going to have around 17 kids in the program. Between sixth through 12th grade, there’s going to be at least 35 kids. That’s good here.”
The district that Red Boiling Springs is in — District 7-1A — will remain the same for the next two years. RBS remains in a district with Gordonsville, Clarkrange, Clay County and Pickett County.
“I kind of have a familiarity with the district,” McKinney said. “I coached against Coach (Greg) Bibb (Gordonsville’s boys coach) when he coached at Smith County. Coach (Rob) Edwards has been there (at Clay County) a long time.
“I think (knowing the district) is going to help me. In boys and in girls, it’s probably one of the top districts in the state. You have to be ready to play every night. You’re going against Clay County, Pickett and Gordonsville. Clarkrange was really young last year. They’re going to be much improved. If you can get through it, it’s going to prepare you for the region and the substate.”
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