To say that Chris Carr brought a new level of toughness to the Eden Prairie (Minn.) girls basketball team is perhaps an understatement. After all, the longtime NBA veteran was used to practicing against Kevin Garnett, why wouldn't his girls players work as if they were, too?
That philosophy, which allowed Carr to build the Eden Prairie team into his own image, helped lead the Eagles to only the second state tournament in school history, eventually finishing as Minnesota Class AAAA state runners-up to Hopkins (Minn.) High.
"As a pro, I was thankful every day, in awe every day that I had a jersey with my name on it,'' Carr told the Pioneer-Press. "Now as a coach, it is a different kind of satisfaction. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with some really great kids. In this day and age of suicides and all kinds of tragedies with our young people, it is great to work with the kids to develop positive goals.''
His players responded, and were thankful for the opportunity to work with a former NBA player.
"I think I can speak for everyone when I say that it's the best thing that's happened for us," Eden Prairie star Morgan VanRiper-Rose told MNGirlsBasketballHub.com. "I think the first feeling from all the girls [was] kind of intimidation from him. He's coached guys, he's been in the NBA. We didn't know what it was going to be like."
What it was like was a whirlwind of intensity blowing through the Eden Prairie program. Carr re-built a loaded, senior-laden team into a defensive force, one which shut down nearly all its opponents with up-tempo trapping, a system that in turn led to plenty of easy buckets and good looks on offense.
Carr also had the benefit of coaching a player he considered a virtual "alter ego" in Eden Prairie's post. As the season wore on, junior forward Jackie Johnson emerged as the team's most dangerous offensive threat, equally willing to bang away against opponents in the paint and also able to distribute from the post, creating clear scoring opportunities for herself and her teammates.
While her size -- Johnson stands 6-foot-2 -- and skills were key factors in her emergence as a Minneapolis Star-Tribune All-Metro second team selection, her attitude was even more important to her coach.
"She's almost got like an alter ego," Carr said of Johnson, who led the team in scoring and blocks. "She'll charm you with her smile off the court, and then will cut your heart out to win on the court. That's a quality that not many girls have."
That's certainly a quality that Carr exuded in his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves. For him to be able to cultivate that intensity in one of his players is perhaps only appropriate.
"[Making the state tournament] was very special," Johnson told MNGirlsBasketballHub.com. "Just because he as a coach has worked so hard and pushed us and made us better basketball players."