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McClelland, Morristown coaching staff key in Yellow Jackets' regional run

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The Morristown basketball team is in search of its first regional title since 1998. The Yellow Jackets will play University in the first contest of the Martinsville Regional Saturday at noon.
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Morristown coaches, from left to right, Scott McClelland, Paul Swartz, Russ Kuhn and Kevin Crim have all played different roles in helping the No. 4 Yellow Jackets to a 24-2 record. The team won its first sectional title since 2007 and will play in the Martinsville Regional Saturday against University.

By KRIS MILLS - kmills@shelbynews.com

MORRISTOWN -- There a few reasons Morristown head coach Scott McClelland would ever miss a basketball game -- one that he is coaching, anyway.

Here is a good one.

While leading Brebeuf Jesuit in 2010, McClelland and his wife, Sonja, were in the process of adopting a child. While sitting in his basement in December preparing for a game later that week, McClelland got a phone call -- it was fairly late at night.

It was the hospital. 

“After practice (the next day), I had to go to to the hospital in Crawfordsville and had to come back. We had the shootaround the next day (game day), and I had to go back to Crawfordsville,” McClelland said. “I told my assistants, ‘hey I might be late for the bus.’ We were finalizing the process. I ended up having to miss the bus. Things kept getting pushed back. 

“We finally got released with our daughter. My car happened to be at Brebeuf. My wife said ‘you are going to your game.’ I asked if she was sure and said she ‘absolutely.’ We were scheduled to play at Martinsville that night. I drove down and got there about the second quarter of the junior varsity game. That last time I was in that gym was the night we brought our daughter (Anna) home.”

It is safe to say the town will forever hold a special place in McClelland’s heart. For the first time in approximately seven years, McClelland will travel back to Martinsville with his current team, the No. 4 Morristown Yellow Jackets, for regional action Saturday.

“Sonja was pretty adamant that I was going to coach that night,” McClelland said. “It is ironic that the place we are playing this week is where I was when we brought our daughter home. She is a good-hearted kid.”

After spending seven years with the program between 2003-10, McClelland coached at Brebeuf for two seasons before leading Western Boone for three. He returned to Morristown in 2015 and has led the program to a 48-23 record since. McClelland is 126-101 in 10 seasons at the school and 182-152 in 15 seasons overall.

Morristown junior varsity coach Kevin Crim said he has seen a difference in McClelland in his second stint with the program.

“From when he did this before, he has a better understanding of everything,” Crim said. “He has more of a calmness now than before.”

Crim, along with varsity assistants Russ Kuhn and Paul Swartz, form a talented coaching staff around the enthusiastic McClelland.

Crim sits in seventh on the program’s all-time scoring list at Morristown and won a Shelby County tournament in 1993 as a sophomore. He later played at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee.

Now, coaching his two sons on the team, Kameron, a junior, and Kyle, a freshman, this season has been extra special for Crim, who has also coached every player on the team at some point in their youth career.

“I coached Russ Kuhn in eighth grade,” Crim said. “That is how long I have been around. Growing up, my kids are night and day. Both have been great. What they do for their younger brother (Kellen, 9) is great.”

Crim is married to Allison Crim, who is the President of the Jacket Backers. He led the JV team to an 11-7 record this year with five of its losses coming by a combined 16 points.

Kuhn, who was on the last Morristown team to win a sectional (2007), is another coach who has been there and done that at the school. He won two county tournaments and was one of the top shooters to come through the program.

He, along with the other coaches, provides a calming voice to the Morristown basketball team. He has experienced a long season. He knows how to get out of a shooting funk. He is someone the kids can relate to.

Kuhn is married to Danielle Kuhn, who is the head coach of the varsity cheer team.

“Coach McClelland has done a great job of looking at things from the player’s point of view,” Kuhn said, who averaged over 17 ppg as a senior. “That is where Coach Crim, Coach Swartz and I come in. If he really gets on them, we help them understand why. That is what is unique about this situation. Being on both sides of it, growing up with McClelland and Kevin, being a player and now a coach I have been able to learn different things from them. It has been special to be apart of it.”

Although not from the area, Swartz has also brought a wealth of hoops knowledge to the team. After meeting McClelland prior to the season, the Florida native has been a perfect addition to the program.

He has specifically helped with the Yellow Jackets' speed and agility, which has been noticeable, specifically on defense. Morristown is scoring seven more points per game than last season and has dropped their defensive average from 56.1 last year to 51.3 this year.

Swartz has experience working with current Indiana University assistant coach Ed Schilling and moved to Indiana after a call from the former Park Tudor head coach.

“I have been in Indiana for about 10 years,” Swartz said. “Ed Schilling called me when I was an assistant coach at Delta State. He offered me a position to come work with the NBA Draft guys. I am just a basketball nut. This summer I got a call from a former player here at Morristown. He put us (McClelland and Swartz) in contact. I have learned a ton from being on McClelland’s staff. His players would run through a wall for him.”

With each bringing a different perspective of the game to practice, Morristown has thrived. The foursome has led the Yellow Jackets to the most wins in program history. They tied the 1937 team with 24.

“I told a couple other people, while I don’t know the other coaching staffs of schools around the area, I think we have one of the most well-rounded staffs,” Morristown Athletic Director Josh Johnson said. “They are going to be the most prepared going into a game. I think they do an outstanding job, top to bottom. Their strengths, combined with the other coaches, makes them that much better.”

Kris Mills is the Sports editor of The Shelbyville News. Follow Kris on Twitter @KrisMills37.