Justin Love’s array of basketball experiences could serve him well as the new boys coach at Mascoutah High School.
Love, 38, grew up playing the game in San Francisco. After playing for late coach Charlie Spoonhour at Saint Louis University, Love spent 12 years playing professionally overseas. The last two years, he has been an assistant coach at Belleville West.
“When it got to the point when I retired (from playing), I knew I had a lot of information I could pass on to that next generation – the kind of information I wish I had growing up,” said Love, 38, who was hired at Mascoutah late Tuesday. “It’s not just about playing. There’s also the mental side to basketball that can give you an edge.”
Love began seeing himself as a leader, and a potential coach, while he played abroad.
“Being a guy on the team that people relied on, I saw how people responded to me,” Love said. “When you’re down 10 points and you talk to your teammate in a certain manner, you see the impact that you make on him. I know that not all good players become great coaches. ... But for me, it’s an easy transition. I want to help, give back and serve others.”
Love replaces Scott Oltmann, who resigned March 23. Oltmann had two stints as the Mascoutah coach, working from 1993-2010 and 2015-17. He led the Indians to a 304-238 record, with 10 Mississippi Valley Conference championships and three regional titles.
I see everything Mascoutah has to offer and how tight that community is. I’m excited about leading the program.
Justin Love, new Indians basketball coach
There were five candidates for the position, said Mascoutah Athletics Director Scott Battas. There was one round of interviews before the administration decided on Love.
“One thing that was evident from Justin was he really wanted to be here. I think that’s always important when you’re looking for a candidate,” Battas said. “He had a vested interest in our program and knew a lot about the program. His basketball knowledge (is a strength). He played at a very high level in college and then professionally. When you put a guy like that in front of a group of kids, he’s got a lot of things they can latch on to and respect.”
Love will be in a support-staff role at the high school, serving as a classroom assistant, as he continues to work toward his teaching certification in special education.
Love’s wife, Katy, is a native of Mascoutah, which is how Justin became familiar with the community. The Loves have a 10-year-old son and two daughters, ages 7 and 5.
“I see the community as a growing community,” Justin Love said. “We could have a lot of players who love basketball. I wasn’t looking to leave Belleville West; I was happy being at Belleville West. It was a big decision to leave at this time. But I see everything Mascoutah has to offer and how tight that community is. I’m excited about leading the program.”
Love credited Belleville West coach Joe Muniz and assistant Roger Mueller.
“Joe Muniz has been great,” Love said. “Joe didn’t know me from a fly on the wall. He gave me an opportunity that not every other coach would. And I’ve been able to pick Roger Mueller’s mind the last two years. I bounced things off him and he bounced things off me.
“This opportunity wouldn’t be here without Belleville West.”
Muniz expects Love to make a smooth transition.
“Justin’s hard work, determination and overall mind for the game made him a great player,” Muniz said. “These same attributes will carry over into his coaching career and help him become an outstanding coach. Justin is an outstanding person. We will definitely miss Justin being a part of our staff, but we are excited for him to get this opportunity.”
When you put a guy like that in front of a group of kids, he’s got a lot of things they can latch on to and respect.
Scott Battas, Mascoutah athletic director
Love said it’s too early to determine the style he and his top assistant, Troy Medvick, will employ until they see their players. The Indians, who last season were 10-20 overall and 2-8 in the MVC, return their top two scorers in senior Blake Weiss and junior Malik Green.
“After being named head coach, you want to go 100 miles per hour,” Love said. “You want to do this, you want to do that. I have a plan, but right now, you want to be patient. I have things I would like to do, but we have to take it one day at a time. It’s about the process.
“Getting to know the players is important right now. We want to see what guys can do and can’t do. I know in my mind how I want to play and how I am as a coach. But until you get in the gym, you can’t really have any expectations about how you’re going to play.”
Love enjoyed his time at Saint Louis University playing for the legendary Spoonhour and with teammates like Jamall Walker, Vergil Cobbin, Troy Robertson, Matt Baniak, Chris Heinrich, Justin Tatum, Dave Fergerson, Drew Diener, Maurice Jeffers, John Redden, Okawville High graduate Ryan Luechtefeld and Gibault High graduate Chris Braun.
“I knew I liked the coach, I knew they had a pretty good team and Conference USA was a loaded conference,” Love said. “It made sense for me to leave home and see some snow.”