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From the ground up 12/22/21

From the ground up

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 

 

The coaching carousel isn't much different from the farmer selling tomatoes to local grocery stores, or the young fashion entrepreneur hoping to convince Wall Street she (or he) has what it takes to get a foot in the door.. 

 

Coaching often mimics life, too. Sometimes, a firm handshake doesn’t hurt, either.

 

Dominic Lincoln had a charisma to teach and a zest to learn at a young age. People were taking notice. 

 

“When I retired at Southside, the first thing I told Stewart Adams (the school’s new coach) was to go get that young assistant at Bryant,” recalls veteran Arkansas high school coach Charlie Cooper. “You could tell he had a lot of energy.”

 

Bryant coach Mike Abrahamson, who hired Lincoln out of Arkansas Tech, was drawn to Lincoln’s thirst to learn. 

 

"The thing I love about Dominic is that he would literally do anything to help the program,” Abrahamson said. “Everybody wants to help draw plays and help schemes, but Dominic would sweep the floor, he would do the laundry, and he would drive the bus. 

 

"You never had to question him to see if he was ready or not."

 

“Mike helped me become who I am as a coach and a person,” Lincoln said. “I learned a lot of stuff from him. To see him out there and to hug and embrace him, it’s going to be a special night.”

 

A decade after helping Abrahamson and the Hornets re-energize their program, Lincoln was named as the school’s successor to longtime Alma coach Stan Flenor. 

 

"It didn't take me long to know that he was going to be a star," Abrahamson said. 

 

Early to rise

 

It’s not yet 7:30 a.m. at Alma Middle School. Wyatt Nehus, a first-year Alma seventh-grade coach, is working with Carson Curd on court-awareness. Luke Stogsdill is driving to the basket; teammate Sammy Moore comes flying by dribbling the ball. A typical, chaotic scene amid a group of 12- and 13-year-olds. 

 

Dominic Lincoln is there, too, complete with a portable music box blasting uptempo music. Make no mistake, this isn’t Barry Manilow or Glen Campbell’s music. 

 

Change can be hard, but six months in, Alma boys’ first new head coach since 1990 has already made his imprint on the program. Players have bought in. 

 

"They should love him," Abrahamson said. "(But) Dominic's like family to me. I love him like a brother. He's an incredible human being."

 

Flenor coached his seventh-graders, too. But Lincoln sits on the bench with all three junior high teams, even the seventh-graders. His senior high players are there, too. 

 

“He’s involved with our seventh-graders,” longtime Alma junior high coach Eddie Corder said. “He’s so involved that he cuts high school practice short so he can be involved in the seventh grade game. It’s kind of trickled all the way down from top to bottom.”

 

The phone call

 

One of the first things Lincoln did before being handed the keys to the program was to reach out to Rogers coach Lamont Frazier. 

 

"I told him, 'Don't go in and try to make changes. See what status quo looks like and then adjust from there.' Sometimes you can walk into a new place, and everybody's unfamiliar with you, and you can make changes but they have to be very subtle,” Frazier said. “A lot of times, it can't be very noticeable. If you go into a new situation and want to prove that you're going to be different, that's probably the worst thing you can do.

 

"That was my advice — don't go in and feel like you have to prove something to everybody."

 

“I wanted some advice to see how he had done it, because he (Frazier) has a top-notch program now, and that’s where we want to be,” Lincoln said. 

 

Frazier’s advice? “Get a feel for them.”

 

"As a head coach, it's more so about us adjusting and adapting, and then that's when the buy-in comes,” Frazier said. “You want to make an adjustment, you want to implement your ideas.

 

"It may take you a year; it may take you two years."

 

Flenor won a school-record 457 games and two state titles during a 31-year run as the team’s coach. He coached the Airedales to 355 wins over the last 20 years.

 

"There's a reason why he had success," Frazier said. "Figure that out first, and then you build into what's there. 

 

Tough start 

 

With a minute left in the first half of Alma’s game with Carl Junction, Missouri, last week, the Airedales held a 41-31 advantage. They were in the midst of scoring 28 points in the second quarter one of two 28-point quarters, in fact. 

 

But the third quarter told a different story as the Bulldogs outscored the Airedales 27-8. The struggle is real. They eventually lost 84-79, dropping the team to 2-6. 

 

A hard schedule? Yes. 

 

Could they have won three more games? Absolutely. Three of the team’s losses have come by five points or less.

 

“I was proud of the effort for the most part,” Lincoln said. “That’s something I challenged them with after our last game. What we want to do is play to a standard and pride for our program. We just have to finish; we have to capitalize on our opportunities, and we’re not doing a very good job of that right now.”