Trinity Rocks Coach Looks Back On 2019 KHSAA Basketball State Championship
Writer / Kelsey Schneider
Earlier this year, on Sunday, March 10th the Trinity High School Rocks and the Scott County Cardinals opposed one another on the Rupp Arena court, shooting on their defender’s hoop while obstructing the opposite from shooting in their hoop. During the entire season, Rock Nation supported and proudly cheered on the Trinity Basketball Rocks’ solid team. Mostly Trinity students, 11,967 fans watched as their peers won the 2019 KHSAA Sweet 16 Boys Basketball State Championship.
At Trinity High School, Head Coach Mike Szabo’s basketball team was on a path to greatness.
Trinity’s athletics program provides challenges, confidence and strength for the Basketball Rocks. The basketball program was established in 1954 and in 2004, the team won its first regional basketball title after beating Male.
“The team was an absolute joy to play with and be around,” says Mike Szabo. “I had a lot of fun with them.”
Versus traditionally strong programs, the Basketball Rocks faced a challenging schedule at the beginning of their season. Accompanied by three returning starters and players with lots of inexperience, the Rocks were scheduled to play against teams like Fern Creek, Scott County, Male, Lexington Catholic, Bullitt East and Henry Clay, to name a few. Trinity would once again be a participant in two of the finest holiday basketball tournaments in the nation, the King of the Bluegrass, a tournament held in Kentucky that the Rocks won twice before. Trinity won the King of the Bluegrass once in 2009 and again in 2016. The team finished as runner-ups last season. The Arby’s Classic, held in Bristol, Tennessee a top regional tournament won in 2016. The season’s goals were to compete for a Seventh Region Championship and get a trip to Rupp Arena for the KHSAA State Championship.
Trinity lost 29-4 in the previous year and, according to their coach, the team was hungry to get back.
Starting in November, fans can watch Trinity Basketball and any of its new players play from the beginning. In the spring, fans can watch their team play in the Louisville International Tournament (LIT). The tournament attributes the top teams within metro Louisville. By tournament time, the team has formed and will have a major impact on the postseason success of the team. Once the postseason begins, players compete for a regional crown and a trip to the KHSAA Sweet 16.
Standing at 6-foot-5, point guard and Senior David Johnson, started the team off greatly with his attitude.
In January, the Rocks would play their rivals St. Xavier at Bellarmine University with a win of 46-43.
The Trinity Basketball Rocks had an incredible season. Trinity played Scott County in the 2019 KHSAA Sweet 16 Boys Basketball State Championship and won with an ending score of 50-40. The Rocks finished the season as state champions with a record of 29-8.
Coach Szabo says the team had a great start. Coach Szabo’s best player, David Johnson then hurt his knee against Collins in the semifinals of the King of the Bluegrass and wasn’t able to play in the second half of the game. Johnson was out during the toughest time of the season and missed five games.
Johnson has signed to be one of the lead guards for the Louisville Cardinals this season.
“David was an absolute joy to play with and be around,” Szabo says. “I had a lot of fun and really enjoy what I do. Every guy was a great guy with a great attitude, the parents as well. They were supportive of me and the staff and were all about our team and basketball.”
During the season, Waggener basketball beat Trinity for the 27th District Tournament title during their game at Atherton High School. The Waggener Wildcats had won eleven straight games in a row when they badly beat Trinity. Both teams were still able to advance to the Seventh Region tournament.
“The Regional Tournament was great,” Szabo says. “It was a great win at Male. We played the most talented teams in our Region.” Trinity advanced to the 7th Region semifinals with a 57-47 win over Male at Male.
“We had a task in front of us to beat Scott County. Scott County’s coach is an incredible coach, one of Kentucky’s best ever,” Szabo says.
David Johnson won MVP honors.
“David was so coachable and always open to what was best for our team,” Szabo says. “He’s got the best career of anyone at Trinity I’ve coached. Tremendous talent, great person, great teammate. I think he’s going to do great things at the UofL program and get them to National Championships.”
Once a baseball pitcher, Coach Szabo started his teaching career at Washington College Academy in Limestone, Tennessee, a small private boarding school. At the school, he was the Director of Athletics, head coach for the baseball team and the basketball team. Szabo was studying basketball at the University of Tennessee under head coach Kevin O’Neill who’s currently the men’s basketball head coach at the University of Southern California. Szabo then went on to take the job as head basketball coach at the Fort Worth Country Day School.
After 18 years at Trinity, coach Szabo has completed his second state championship (the first in 2012). His trip to Rupp Arena marks his sixth time during his tenure that Trinity has captured the 7th Region crown and advanced to the KHSAA Sweet 16.
Coach Szabo explains how he should’ve called a timeout during his state championship victory but seconded himself. He says other coaches in Kentucky are so competitive and that’s what made the season so fun.
“I don’t have to beat myself up for the next six months,” he says. “I was really proud, it was a gratifying feeling with no negative thoughts. The ending of the season was really bittersweet. Walking into the gym the following weekend I wished we were still practicing.”
Trinity Basketball Rocks were not just lucky, but beyond blessed. Their coach says they became champions by being consistent, helping everyone on the team and being dedicated to being the very best.