Billings’ recent history in boys basketball — five straight losses in the first round of the district tournament — might scare off some coaches.

Not James Kappel.

That’s the kind of job he was looking for after graduating from Oklahoma State University in May.

“That was a big appeal to me,” said Kappel. “I was wanting to take over a team that did not have a lot of success. A school like that is willing to take a chance on a guy who doesn’t have that much coaching experience. I’m excited about a chance to turn a program around.”

Kappel, a Stillwater High School graduate, will be Billings’ boys basketball head coach and an assistant football coach at Garber. Garber and Billings have a co-op in football.

Kappel met with his new team Monday. He will teach social studies.

“I’ve always enjoyed sports, and I’ve always enjoyed kids,” Kappel said. “It seemed like a good match for me.”

Kappel did not play basketball at Stillwater but played intramurals and coached and played on a traveling team while attending OSU.

“Just because you didn’t play a sport doesn’t mean you don’t know the ins and outs of it,” Kappel said. “I had a highly sophisticated offense on my traveling teams. I’m a leader. I have the tools to be successful.”

Kappel said his strong point is his leadership.

“I think you have to teach kids how to win first,” Kappel said. “They haven’t won here so winning is something that has to be taught and learned. I expect them to play hard and to win. It’s something they haven’t known before.”

The Bulldogs’ tentative roster has one senior and one junior with the rest being freshmen and sophomores, he said. Kappel said the team meeting was productive.

“They need to understand what it’s going to take to win,” Kappel said. “They want to win and turn things around. What they told me is what I wanted to hear.”

Billings’ boys last went to an area tournament in 1997.

From what Kappel saw Monday, Billings will be small and guard oriented. He wants to run an up-tempo offense, if possible.

“I like pushing the action,” he said. “I don’t know how much depth we’ll have. I want to make sure that we can go up and down the court all the time and still have fresh legs.”

Kappel, from coaching traveling teams, wanted to be his own boss instead of being an assistant for his first high school coaching job.

“I know I’m young, and the obvious choice would be for me to be an assistant,” he said. “But it’s always been my thing to call the shots and be responsible for the success of the team.”

Billings superintendent Les Justus said the school system got a “good young coach and teacher” in Kappel.

Kappel has liked what he has seen of Billings so far.

“Everybody has been great to me,” he said. “I was getting a little burned out on Stillwater. It’s nice to get away to a small town that’s not too far away from there.”

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