Diehard hoops fans at the Varden Garden are preparing to enter a brand new era this coming winter.
On Tuesday night at the Western Wayne school board meeting, officials announced that Darren Thorpe has been appointed boys varsity basketball coach effective immediately.
A longtime presence on the Wildcat sports scene, Thorpe succeeds former skipper Mike Nepa who is retiring from both coaching and teaching at year's end.
"I'm definitely excited about the challenge," Coach Thorpe told TWI Sports.
"I had a lot off fun working with Mike and I learned a lot, too. This is something I've always wanted to do, but I thought it would come later in my career."
Darren is also Western Wayne's girls varsity volleyball coach, a position he's grown to love over the years.
"I have a lot on my plate, that's for sure," he said with a chuckle. "As I said, I'm excited about the challenge, but I'm going to try and be realistic, too. We'll take it one year at time and see how it goes."
Nepa closes out his second stint on the Varden sideline with mixed results.
Wins didn't materialize at the varsity level, but he oversaw the formation of a feeder program that bodes well for the future.
"Our numbers are up and we even had a freshmen team last year for the first time in long time," Thorpe said. "I think we've definitely improved and Mike was a big part of that."
On the Hardwood
Western Wayne has struggled in the Lackawanna League for a decade now.
The Wildcats haven't posted a divisional victory in more than three years and are currently riding a 41-game league losing streak.
Page 2 of 2 - Those numbers don't sit well with the newly-appointed Thorpe who enjoyed consistent success during his own high school days.
Darren is a 1983 graduate of Western Wayne and a veteran of some of the greatest boys basketball teams in school history. Under the direction of Coach Mike Ognosky, the Wildcats won back-to-back District 12 championships.
"Our teams all through the '80s were pretty darned good," Thorpe said. "Steve Salley was our jayvee coach and the whole program was really strong. I hope we can get back to somewhere near that level again, but I know it isn't going to happen overnight."
Thorpe plans to build his team on some of the foundation Nepa established. However, there will be key differences as well.
"Mike liked to play one defense and stick with it all the time," he said. "I'd much rather mix things up a little bit."
Under Ognosky and Salley, Thorpe recalls playing multiple defenses, as many as six or seven, depending upon the opponent and game situation.
He even remembers changing sets in the middle of a possession.
"I don't envision us doing that anytime soon," Darren said. "But, that's one of the directions I want us to go."
Western Wayne will return a solid nucleus for the 2013-14 campaign. And, although the Wildcats didn't win any league games, they did capture the championship of the 40th annual Forest City Rotary Tournament.
"We definitely have some positive things to build on," Thorpe said. "
Darren and his wife Lori are the proud parents of two daughters, Kristin and Jamie. They live in Waymart.