Hoskins eager for challenge at Middletown — a ‘top-three job in the state’

Darnell Hoskins’ meteoric rise as Thurgood Marshall’s ultra-successful boys basketball coach was just as stunning as his sudden departure. The former University of Dayton Flyer by way of Wisconsin and Chaminade Julienne High School spent six seasons as the Cougars’ head coach. In that time were two Division II state final fours, a state runner-up, an annual top 10 state-ranked program and a ton of resurrected City League swag.

Just as impressive, under the feisty Hoskins’ watch Thurgood was a match for City League heavyweight Dunbar, which also went to a couple of final fours in that time and was the 2012 unbeaten D-II state champ.

That state-decorated era of City League boys hoop took a hit last week when Middletown announced it had hired Hoskins as its head coach. The job opened, ironically, when former Dunbar and Ohio State standout Mark Baker resigned after three seasons. He’s expected to be named the Dayton Public Schools athletic director this week.

Here’s what Hoskins had to say about all that and more:

Q: Why Middletown? Why not somewhere else?

A: This is a top-three job in the state. I turned down a top-three job in the state on two separate occasions and some people would call me crazy. I'm thinking, you said it could be done in an inner-city environment where people said it was going to be tough and you got it done. Now, the Middletown situation presents itself and three time's a charm. The timing was the most critical piece to this. It's the top of the food chain. Obviously, they haven't had the level of success they expect there. It's a big job but one I'm really eager to take over. It has every element that I've been yearning for. It's going to have big-time facilities, they have big-time resources, the support of the community and it gives me an opportunity to incubate and cultivate talent from the grassroots level up.

Q: What do you mean by that?

A: I had no chance of cultivating talent from the third grade up in the Dayton Public Schools. The system is broke in that regard. Now, I have full autonomy of that process. It's not going to happen overnight, but I have the opportunity to grow it. I've always wanted to see if I had the ability to ground a kid and watch him from third grade to the time he reaches me and make sure he's getting the fundamentals he needs at an early age. By the time he reaches me it's purely strategic. That's where you see the Centervilles and Springboros really thrive because their system was implemented long ago.

The situation I was in, I spend all that time and resources on an eighth-grader and at the end of the day they tell me, ‘I’m going to Stivers.’ The kids I’m going to help grow up in Middletown, guess where they’re going to go? They’re going to be a Middie. That’s got me fired up.

Q: Did you know this past season was going to be your last at Thurgood?

A: I didn't have a contingency plan one way or the other. One thing I did figure out as the course of the season went on is I still have a great deal of passion for coaching. Did I want to stay (at Thurgood) coaching under that (DPS) regime? Absolutely not. I'm in it for kids; that's why I do it. I want to see them move on from this environment. I thought that we were all in to see that happen. It bothers me that some adults were putting themselves before the kids.

Q: Did you resign from Thurgood or was your coaching contract not renewed?

A: I was back. When I knew that the (DPS) superintendent was not going to be renewed and the (athletic director) was not going to be back, it gave me a renewed fervor for what I was doing again. I knew this group coming back at Thurgood wasn't as strong as the past, but I loved the challenge. That really challenged me to see how good I am. I was chasing that challenge, not the reward. I said, I'm going to do it like I first got the job. I'm going to bolster it down and really grow some young guys who will take some lumps for a couple years but then we'll be back in the thick of things and seek some state championships in a couple years. That was my thought process.

Q: How did Middletown get involved?

A: I call a call from the head of the committee down there. He said they'd like to throw my name in the hat if you're at all interested. They came after me on two separate occasions. The first time we made that magical run to state at Thurgood and I declined because I felt like my work at Thurgood was not even close to being done. The second time was the time they hired Mark Baker. I just couldn't see leaving at the time when my son (Darnell Hoskins Jr.) and those guys were getting ready to come into school.

Q: Did you have success off the court at Thurgood?

A: Statistically, we did good. I had 28 seniors and 21 of them are in college playing ball somewhere. That's a heck of a statistic. It ain't points, rebounds or assists, but that's the real championship and it's the real reason I do what I do. I said to myself, mission accomplished in that area. My work is done now (at Thurgood). I've got a bigger job ahead of me.

Q: Will longtime assistant and former UD Flyer Steve Pittman stick with you?

A: Pit's going for sure. That's my right-hand man. He's excited about the opportunity as well. Obviously, Thurgood wanted to retain him and make the transition as seamless as possible. He just told me, 'Let's roll; let's go get it done.'

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