As an assistant coach with the Alpena girls basketball team last season, Dan Arsenault got a first-hand look at how tough the Big North Conference can be.
Now Alpena is hoping Arsenault can turn around a struggling program and transform the Wildcats into a conference contender once again after he was tabbed as Alpena's next coach on Monday.
He replaces Jenny Poli who resigned in April after four seasons.
"I got to know the kids real well, I got to know the strengths of the program and what we need to work on," Arsenault said.
Arsenault came to Alpena's program from Sault Ste. Marie last year and was called upon to make the Wildcats faster and work with them on an up-tempo style of play, that called for aggressive defense.
"We were successful to an extent. We were successful at times and we want to build on that," Arsenault said. "We'll still run an up-tempo offense and pressure defense. I like to coach the way I played."
Basketball has been a way of life for Arsenault ever since he can remember. His father Bill was the longtime coach of Sault's boys basketball team and Arsenault spent many a day hanging out in the gym.
"One of my first memories is being 5 or 6 and attending practices, riding the bus with the team," Arsenault said. "I grew up around the game and since I got into coaching, I've enjoyed it ever since.
Arsenault was a standout player for the Blue Devils in high school and went on to play collegiately at Olivet. He began his coaching career in 2001 working as Sault's seventh grade boys basketball coach. From there he moved on to coach the freshman boys basketball team for five years and the JV girls team for eight, a stretch where his teams went 115-18.
In taking over the Wildcats, Arsenault will have his work cut out for him. The Wildcats struggled with low numbers and battled through injuries last season, finishing 6-15. Alpena loses four seniors, including four-year starter and leading scorer Christina Kollien.
Arsenault plans to help improve Alpena's basketball program from the bottom up, making sure that youth teams are learning the skills they need to eventually become JV and varsity players.
"In order for us to be successful, we have to have continuity and be on the same page at all levels. We've got to make sure that the coaches at the younger levels are doing the same thing we're doing, so the kids don't have to learn something new (when they get to high school)," Arsenault said. "Hopefully it will mean success once we get everyone on the same page."
James Andersen can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.