By SETH STRINGER
NICEVILLE — Some days, NWF State guard Jared Wilson-Frame said, Steve DeMeo is "relaxed and lets us get into our flow."
Other days — like Monday's practice before it was revealed the Raiders had garnered the eighth seed in the NJCAA Division I Men's National Basketball Championship — DeMeo will "light into us and let us know we need to pick it up."
Good cop, bad cop ... it works.
The proof is in the growing number of coach of the year honors for DeMeo, the latest Monday's Panhandle Conference honor as voted on by the media. That's DeMeo's 10th coach of the year award — including the national coach of the year in 2015 after leading the Raiders to a national title — in his four years at NWF Sate, and it follows up last month's coach of the year selection by his fellow coaches in the conference.
"As I've always said, it's a staff award," said the New Yorker. "It's a department award. It's a school award for Northwest Florida. I'm proud of the awards but what matters most to me is making NWF State basketball the most respected in the nation."
With three Panhandle Conference titles, two Region 8 crowns, three national tournament appearances and a national title in his tenure, it's hard to argue that's not the case.
"This is special to me," DeMeo said of his status as NWF State head coach. "This is my baby, so I try to enjoy it. When you win games, win league titles, win state titles and win a national title and coaching awards, you have to find time to sit back and enjoy it. It's every waking part of your life, so you got to love what you do. That said, it's always on to the next team, the next challenge."
That next challenge is the winner of ninth-seeded Jones County and 24th-seeded Caldwell Tech, which the Raiders will face in the Sweet 16 on March 21 in Hutchinson, Kansas.
"Since day one this year coach has made sure we're focused and on the same page," Wilson-Frame said. "Team togetherness, that's been his big thing. We're way more together than last year. We're more of a family. That's all on him."