Kevin Lahna admits without hesitation that being a head basketball coach was always one of his goals.
As of last Wednesday, the Ridgewood High product got his wish when he was named interim head coach at St. John Central.
However, it's probably a safe bet that inheriting the job in the middle of the season after a coach stepped down wasn't the process he thought he'd have to endure to reach his goal.
"I am looking at this as an audition to show that I have some attributes that can help rebuild this program," Lahna said.
Becoming the Irish's fourth coach in three-plus seasons, Lahna took over Jim Miller, who resigned suddenly last week, after just nine games into his first season.
It didn't Lahna long to make an impact. The Irish, who had been beaten handily in their first nine games, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat last Saturday when they upended Paden City in overtime after Garrett Holubeck drained a three-pointer from the top of the key just before the horn sounded.
"The first time I met with the kids I told them they needed to believe," Lahna said. "I didn't win the game for them. It took all of the kids and it was just a different team than I had seen. They had a fight in their eye and the attitude that nothing was going to stand in their way."
The Irish almost let the game slip away after scratching and clawing their way to overtime. The Green committed a turnover, but forced a turnover of its own, which led to Holubeck's heroics.
"It was like we had won the state championship when the ball went through the net," Lahna said. "The kids tackled (Holubeck) on the court and there was a huge pile. The fans were going crazy. It was just a huge win for the kids and the entire St. John Central community."
It was quite an ending to a most tumultous week at the school.
"I am sure it was real tough on the kids, their families, the school and administration," Lahna, who works at SJC, said. "
So what does Lahna and the Irish do for an encore when they return to the floor tonight against Jefferson County Christian?
"I really think we have a chance to win a few more games," Lahna said. "With no disrespect to Coach Miller, I told the kids that it's a new year and a new beginning. I don't want them to forget what he taught them, but let's start over as far as the year goes."
Lahna, who has not spoken with Miller, is actually pulling double duty for the rest of the season. He has stuck with his role as Junior Irish coach and actually coached a game earlier in the day Saturday before the varsity game in the afternoon. He's also been on the Junior Irish football staff.
"I realize that there have been some tough times in football, basketball and baseball at St. John," Lahna said. "But, I will say this about these kids.
"They come every day and practice as hard and work as hard as they can, so it was nice for them to get a victory to see some of their hardwork pay off."
Lahna is being assisted for the remainder of the season by Tim Blue, who is the Irish's head baseball coach, and Doug Rataiczak.
"Tim and Doug have been great," Lahna said. "Tim has really helped me in making this a smooth transition. I don't know if I could have done it without them."
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org