Once one the most proud and prolific boys high school basketball programs in western Kentucky, Apollo High School has struggled since reaching the KHSAA State Tournament under former coach Steve Barker in 2018.
In Barker’s final two seasons at the helm, the Eagles went 8-50, And, in the first season for head coach Mark Starns in 2020-21, Apollo was 5-13 and lost by 24 points to Owensboro in the first round of the 9th District Tournament.
Now, Starns is attempting to rebuild the program in numerous ways — not the least of which has been to put together a coaching staff with a winning heritage in the game, and, most importantly he believes, with an unbridled passion for the game.
“We’re building this program collectively,” Starns said, during an open gym session at Eagle Arena on Thursday. “I’ve got a staff that’s enthusiastic, one that wants to be here, one that wants to build relationships — and that’s what it takes to be successful.
“These guys live, eat and breathe the game, and basketball is in their blood. I’m really excited about the possibilities.”
The biggest name of the bunch, of course, is Tyler Brown, one of the program’s all-time best players. As a sophomore, Brown helped lead Apollo to the 2006 KHSAA state championship game, and he later scored over 1,000 points in only two seasons at NCAA Division 1 Illinois State.
Also on staff are Ryne Tinsley, a former star high school player who also played at Brescia University, Buddy Hinton, who played for Owensboro High School in the early 2000s, and volunteer assistant Jason Young, in his second season with Starns at AHS.
Tinsley, despite being only 27, brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the program. He is the son of John Tinsley, a highly accomplished high school head coach for many years in the Bluegrass.
“I’ve been around basketball my whole life, and I got a lot of my competitiveness from my dad,” Tinsley said. “I’ve had a lot of different experiences in the game, and I feel blessed to have this opportunity at Apollo at such a young age.
“I have a lot of passion for the game and I want to stay in it as a coach for a long time.”
Tinsley said the rebuild at Apollo will be from the earliest ages.
“We’ve got to cultivate this program from the youngest ages,” he said. “We will be having a fall league that will include all six of our feeder schools, and we’ll just build this thing back where it’s supposed to be.
“This is a school with 1,400 kids, with good athletes, and it’s just a matter of time before we get back where we belong.”
“We’re all super-excited to be out here and have an opportunity to help get these young guys going,” Hinton said. “I look at this as an opportunity for me to give back to the game I love and make a positive difference in the lives of these young players.
“We’re young, but we have players out here who are very competitive and eager to learn, and when you mix these things with hard work success is going to follow.”
Building relationships, and trust, is key, Hinton said.
“It’s important for us as coaches to let these guys know we love them and care for him,” Hinton said. “and help them understand that we’re going to be here for them.
“It’s all about bringing that winning culture back to Apollo and I have no doubt that we’re going to get there. It’s a big challenge, but it’s a good challenge when you have a ton of potential.”
Young believes the Apollo program is already on the cusp of rejuvenation.
“We are absolutely moving in the right direction, and I’m really excited to work with coach Starns and these great new guys we have on staff,” Young said. “We’re going to start at the elementary schools and move up from there.
“We’re going to get there — we have exciting times in front of us.”