Mike Tobin, Cartersville's new head basketball coach, did not get his first taste of basketball until he was talked into trying out for his Crestwood, Ill., school team as an eighth grader.
"[Crestwood] was a really small school, and they wanted to start a basketball program," he recalled.
At the time Tobin, who'd been playing baseball since about the second grade, said he had little interest in the new sport. "I was really uncoordinated, and I thought [basketball] was for kids who weren't very tough," he laughed. "I thought anyone who touched the players on the court were called for fouls."
That view didn't last, and when it changed basketball had gained a new forward who said he definitely got some help along the way.
"I had a coach -- Rudy Trendl -- who took me under his wing and taught me the fundamentals," recalled Tobin.
He said his lessons about the sport became based on reality instead of perception. "I learned you had no pads and a lot of bodies flying around. It was a lot more physical than people think."
Tobin later mastered his new sport enough to interest college recruiters in him. Along the way, he also learned a key to success in basketball -- like life -- is to work hard. It didn't hurt, of course, that he was 5 feet, 10 inches as a sophomore and those numbers eventually stretched to 6 feet, 4 inches.
Tobin worked hard on his game and, after transferring his junior and senior years to a high school in Rochester, Minn., accepted a basketball scholarship to Southwest State University, in Marshall, Minn.
There, he had a successful college career, becoming the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,600 points in 1986. The first baseman and pitcher also earned All-American (Honorable Mention) as a baseball player in 1986. He later was inducted into the college's hall of fame for both basketball and baseball.
After college, Tobin coached at Eden Prairie Schools in Eden Prairie, Minn., serving as an instructor and also as assistant boys/girls basketball coach through 1992, when he became the school's head boys basketball coach and assistant boys baseball coach.
His basketball teams there claimed three Lake Conference championships, two region championships, four holiday tournament titles, 10 straight winning seasons and 184 victories. They were ranked in the Top 10 in the state eight of 10 seasons. He also was named region coach of the year at Eden.
Meanwhile, Tobin had begun coming South to the Atlanta area to see his family. "My stepdad had moved to Marietta, where he worked for IBM," he said. "When we visited them, my wife found she loved the heat and wanted to move in the worse way."
In 2002 he moved to Cartersville, where he took over the reigns at Woodland High, a position he held until last week.
Tobin said climate isn't the only difference in the two regions because there are subtle differences in the game played where he was raised. "So much of the time up north, basketball's played indoors. Kids here play more outside because of the climate."
There's no shot-altering wind indoors and Northern teams tend to have better outside shooters. "Southerners might do a better job penetrating and driving to the basket."
Still, he said, certain things are always true no matter where the game is played. "The bottom line is you still have to put the ball in the hoop."
At Woodland, his teams had not trouble finding that hoop.
The Wildcats have just finished as the Region 7-AAAA champions during the regular season and Tobin was named the region's coach of the year. Among the records set by that team were most regular season wins in school history (24), most regular season home victories (13), and highest state ranking in the polls at No. 4.
The Wildcats also were the No. 1-ranked offense (64 ppg) and No. 1-ranked defense (47 ppg) in their region. They set a school record with an 18-game win streak.
During his tenure at Woodland, Tobin's teams earned three sub-region championships, three holiday tournament championships, won 177 games, earned five state tournament berths, had nine winning seasons and claimed one region championship.
Tobin resigned his position at Woodland last week and has already begun establishing his program at Cartersville.
He said in addition to coaching the Purple Hurricanes, he will teach physical education at Cartersville Elementary School.
"It will be kind of nice working with the future of the program at the elementary school," he added.
The coach also expects to see some of his Canes suiting up for sports other than basketball, something that happened routinely at Woodland.
"I definitely encourage players to play more than one sport," the former two-sport star said. "I think it's good as a change of pace, and it keeps them fresh playing more than one sport."
He said it also helps them physically.
Tobin added his decision to come South has worked out well. "I'm glad we moved down here. It's an awesome place."