There's a rivalry brewing in the Prince George's County 3A/2A/1A boys basketball league.
Multiple rivalries, actually. Between grizzled veterans and wily young newcomers. Between tactical geniuses and calm and composed entities. Between up tempo lovers and defensive specialists.
No, those aren't the dozens of talented athletes who play for the division's schools. It's the coaches.
In a season that already figured to be extremely competitive among the boys basketball teams in the 3A/2A/1A league, the addition of Billy Lanier and the return of Steve Matthews pushed the coaching experience and prowess to an unprecedented level for the 2012-13 season.
“The coaching in this league is ridiculous,” said Gwynn Park coach Mike Glick.
And he's right. Glick, who is in his seventh year at Gwynn Park after coaching for two decades prior, took over the Yellow Jackets from Matthews and has molded them into a consistent powerhouse.
Matthews is back into coaching after a six-year break and is hoping to transform Crossland in much the same way he did at Gwynn Park.
Lanier shifted from Charles H. Flowers to Friendly, which had a losing season last year, for personal reasons. He also is hoping to create a second dynasty on the heels of the remarkable program he led with Oxon Hill that won state titles in 2000 and 2003.
“You've got some of the older coaches who've been around for a long time back in it now,” Lanier said. “You're going to have to coach every night.”
Then there's Lewis Howard at Largo. He won a state title in 2008, reached the title game last year and is coaching the Lions for his 13th season. Throw in Tyrone Massenburg at Frederick Douglass, who is the president of the newly rejuvenated Prince George's County Basketball Coaches' Association, and Lawrence Pugh, who has Central turning many heads early in his third season with the Falcons, and it's clear the competition is fierce.
“The games, night-in and night-out, [and] the coaching matchups will be very interesting,” said Massenburg, whose team is 3-2 and knocked off Gwynn Park in overtime last week. “I know the style of play and I know the coaches in our league have a lot of respect for it. I know our teams will be prepared and very seldom will they have nights where they don't play up to their potential.”
Along with that institutional wherewithal are a couple of talented newcomers in second-year coach Renard Johnson, who has transformed Potomac, and Demario Newman at Surrattsville. Newman expected to have a down year after transitioning from being a dominant head coach on the girls' side, but has started the season strong.
The only two programs that currently are struggling to gain momentum are Fairmont Heights and Forestville Military Academy. Both were winless as of publication.
The beauty of the year, however, is that the parity in the league remains remarkably high.
Schools — excluding Fairmont Heights and Forestville — have combined for 27 wins in 43 games and a large majority of the losses have come from beating each other.
“This is a tough league. It's a very tough league. It's a competitive, competitive league,” said Howard, whose team is 3-2 with losses to Surrattsville and Central. “You've got teams that are getting better and better. These consistent teams stay consistent and then other teams are climbing up the ladder and becoming better basketball teams.”