ANDERSON — Like many kids growing up in Indiana, Justin Coomer has basketball in his blood.
But the Lapel graduate and longtime Jimmie Howell assistant now can count himself among the few who have gotten the chance to run their own program.
Earlier this week, Coomer was named the girls basketball coach at Eastern High School.
The gig is just a five-minute drive from the house he shares with his wife Nikki — a Greentown native — and the Comets are coming off a prolonged period of success.
“I never really looked around,” said Coomer, who will continue to work at Lapel and hopes to continue coaching the Bulldogs’ boys and girls tennis teams. “I wasn’t planning to leave.”
But this job was too good to pass up. In fact, after applying, Coomer wasn’t certain he’d get serious consideration.
Eastern is coming off a spectacular 22-4 season in which it advanced to the Class 2A state championship game before losing to Evansville Mater Dei.
And the Comets have posted an outstanding 68-22 record over the past four years.
But twins Bethany and Brittany Neeley — who each scored 1,000 points in their careers — have graduated, and one of the Comets’ top returning players is currently recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Of the 16 players currently attending workouts, eight are freshmen.
None of which dampens Coomer’s enthusiasm.
“It’s nice to have been able to work with them this last week-and-a-half or so,” he said. “I got hired kind of late, and we’ve been doing some catching up. But they’re hard-working kids. They’re doing what I ask of them.”
Coomer spent the past nine seasons on Howell’s staff at Lapel.
That stint began with the team’s 2005 Class A state championship, and Coomer has soaked in everything he can from a coach with 507 career wins.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “I thought I knew a little bit before he got here. But just being around him the last nine years, I’ve picked up a lot of things I can use in my own program.”