EAST PRAIRIE - After a two month search for a boys basketball coach to replace the departing Jason Irby, East Prairie has found their man.
Matt Schonhoff has been hired to take over the boys program. The position had been available since May, when Irby resigned to coach closer to his hometown in Illinois.
Schonhoff, 27, graduated from Oak Ridge High School in 1996 and attended Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar on a baseball scholarship.
After completing college, Schonhoff began his career in coaching last year as the assistant coach of the varsity basketball program at Triad High School in Illinois.
The road to East Prairie from Triad is due to the career of his wife.
"The reason I was looking in this area is because my wife got a new position at the Kenny Rogers Center in Sikeston," said Schonhoff. "I began looking around for some type of openings and luckily I found out about the position at East Prairie."
While most interview processes are stress-filled, Schonhoff felt at ease during his interview.
"To be honest," said Schonhoff, "I felt really relaxed heading into the interview. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't overconfident or whatever. I truly love to coach and I just told them my philosophy on coaching and what I believe in."
The Eagles are coming off a 12-13 under Irby and will lose leading scorers Dez Johnson and Mitchell Winchester. East Prairie will not be void of talent next season however.
Tony Jones, a 6-foot-2 forward, will return for his junior season and seniors Randy Woods, Taylor White, Zach Secoy, Caleb Hatton and Tyler Branam will provide leadership for the squad.
"I have met with the returning kids and they are excited to have a new coach in place for next year," said Schonhoff. "They now know they have a coach and are just ready to get going, as am I."
Schonhoff described his system as an up-tempo, pressure style with a controlled offensive approach.
"East Prairie has some tremendous athletes and I plan to take advantage of that fact," said Schonhoff. "It is going to be a fast-paced system that will utilize our speed and size. It is definitely going to be exciting."
During Irby's seven-year tenure with the Eagles, East Prairie had one winning season and Irby had a combined record of 61-103.
Traditionally, East Prairie has seen limited success on the basketball court. In fact, the Eagles have never won a district title in school history.
Despite this fact, the community is getting excited about the upcoming season according to Schonhoff.
"I can't say how successful we will be," said Schonhoff, "but we will establish some success in the program. I am excited, the kids are excited and most importantly the community is really getting charged up about the upcoming season. I am going to bring some energy to the program and I expect the kids to be fired up for the season."
Schonhoff has already started some camps in East Prairie to get the kids accustomed to his style of play.
"We have had some open gyms and the kids are starting to adapt to the new system," said Schonhoff. "It will take a while, but that is why I am getting the kids in early. Just to go over the basics of offense and defense, so that they will have a good idea of what to expect in the fall."
Even though it is early July, Schonhoff wishes it was the first of November.
"I wish we could start practice tomorrow," said Schonhoff. "I am really ready to get going. The kids are ready and I know the town is looking forward to the season. I can't wait for the town to see what is in store for them next season. It is going to be exciting."