MONUMENT - Lewis-Palmer principal Sandi Brandl didn't have to look far to find the school's next boys basketball coach.
Bill Benton, 41, an assistant under Russ McKinstry for five seasons, was named his predecessor on June 24. Benton also coached with McKinstry for a year at Smoky Hill.
“I'm excited about the opportunity,” Benton said. “I'm excited that there doesn't have to be a whole lot of transition. I'm excited our kids can continue to build a program.”
The last three weeks have been nothing short of exciting for Benton. On June 12, he was at the new Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs for the birth of his third child. His wife, Lori, delivered a beautiful baby girl that they named Elizabeth.
That same day, the Black Forest Fire broke out and Benton's neighborhood (he lives just south of Baptist Road) was put on pre-evacuation notice.
Ten days later, McKinstry announced he was leaving Lewis-Palmer as the school's athletic director and coach, paving the way for Benton to become the Rangers' leading man on the hardwood.
“I've experienced the whole gamut of emotions, but I wouldn't trade it for anything,” Benton said.
Benton works as a Lewis-Palmer campus supervisor and also runs math and science study halls. This is his second stint as a head coach. He directed Hanover from 2003 through 2006.
Benton inherits a Rangers team that went 52-4 over the last two seasons - including a 34-game winning streak - on their way to back-to-back state championships. But all the stars are gone from those teams, including current University of Colorado forward Josh Scott and Idaho State-bound Justin Smith. Another star, Jordan Scott, said he will make a decision soon on where he will play college basketball.
Lewis-Palmer experienced tremendous success during McKinstry's tenure, advancing to five consecutive Class 4A Final Fours. Benton was a huge part of that success as McKinstry's top assistant.
“The program is in great hands with Coach B,” said Jordan Scott, a four-year starter. “He was a great assistant coach and I know he will be a great head coach.”
Benton is running open gyms at the school this summer and is pleased with what he's seen so far.
“We've lost a lot of great players, but the cupboard is not bare,” Benton said. “We are just young. We have guys who want to play hard and want to compete and want to run our system. I think we have the ability to compete on a nightly basis and play to our full potential.
“I don't look at like we have to rebuild this year. We have eight to 10 guys who want to fight for that varsity spot.
The top returning player from last year's team is senior Chase Stone, who averaged 10.2 points per game and led the club in 3-pointers with 49. Stone's father, Derek, is a program assistant.
Also expected to play a key role is sophomore Jonathan Scott, who saw significant playing time at the guard position.