MADISON TOWNSHIP — The opportunity to be a head coach again was too good for Chris Armstrong to pass up.
An assistant at Madison for the past four seasons, Armstrong was introduced as the new head coach earlier this week. He succeeds Tim Mergel, who stepped down after nine seasons to become the head coach at Ontario.
Before arriving at Madison, Armstrong was a head coach at Cornerstone Christian Academy in Shelbyville, Kentucky, and later an assistant at Dunbar High School in Lexington, Kentucky. While at Cornerstone Christian, he led the Bulldogs to a 20-win season in the program’s first year in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
After moving to Dunbar, he helped pilot the program to a state title in 2016. He also worked closely with 2017 Kentucky Mr. Basketball winner Taveion Hollingsworth, who recently completed his senior season at Division I Western Kentucky.
“I knew at some point I wanted to be a head coach again,” Armstrong said. “I took several years where I … did some skills and player development work and enjoyed being an assistant, but the last several years I’ve gone back and looked at culture-building and team-building.
“After several years of working on player development I really started looking at how we build cultures. That peaked my interest.”
A special education teacher, Armstrong joined Mergel’s staff for the 2017-18 season. The Rams were 15-9 that year and advanced to the Division I sectional final before falling to Sylvania Northview.
Madison has struggled in the three seasons since, going a combined 17-49 without a tournament win. The Rams were 4-16 during last winter.
“I think to be a really good team, you’ve got to develop gym rats. We’re really hoping to have a great off-season,” Armstrong said. “We need to transform our strength and conditioning program. We’ve got to get stronger and in better condition and then we’ve got to put a lot of time in on our shooting and skill development.”
Armstrong hopes to implement a more up-tempo style of play.
“We’re going to play fast. We plan on being very aggressive and play attack basketball,” Armstrong said. “We want to be that way at both ends of the court.”
Having coached in the program for the past several season s, Armstrong already is familiar with the players in the program. He also has a strong relationship with Mergel.
“Tim has been a great friend. I really enjoyed working with coach Mergel,” Armstrong said. “It has been a smooth transition and we’re fortunate because we have five or six guys who will be seniors next year who are hungry. They’re ready to improve and take that next step.”
Before pursuing a coaching career, Armstrong was a member of Birmingham-Southern College’s 1995 NAIA national championship team. He earned a Master’s degree in special education from Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky.
“Coach Armstrong brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our basketball program,” Madison athletic director Doug Rickert said. “Coach Armstrong’s passion and enthusiasm for the game of basketball is contagious. Our student-athletes are fortunate to have him as our head coach.”