MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — James Ware feel in love with basketball at Hopkins High School.

He earned a scholarship to Texas Tech, and found inspiration from his high school head coach.

“It was everything. Had unbelievable, unbelievable role models. Kenny Novak, who’s over at Hopkins, still coaches, still doing great,” Ware said.

He chased a college coaching dream, serving as an assistant at Minnesota, Utah State and Santa Clara.

“My goal was always to be a head coach,” Ware said. “So you want to be in situations where you see that actually coming to fruition. And you pretty much got to, you know, decide how long are you going to chase it, right? Because it’s very taxing and very stressful on family life.”

So he came back to high school, hired as the head coach at Park Center. This is his comfort zone, with kids, making a difference, teaching it his way.

“To see how hungry they were, to see their passion for the game, reminded me a lot of myself as a kid,” Ware said. “I have two young sons that are, you know, coming up. And I thought, ‘I played in this traveling program, BPAA, Brooklyn Park Traveling Basketball … what a better opportunity.'”

His best player is Losini Kamara, who is bound for the University of Idaho. He moved here from New York, and connected with his head coach.

“He taught me how to be a leader, he taught some kids on our team how to be more focused on what’s really the main focus … school,” Kamara said. “Everybody’s want to play basketball on this team, and like everybody’s not going to play basketball at the next level.”

It’s a busy winter for Ware. He’s not only Park Center’s basketball coach — he’s also the assistant principal. He sees parallels between the roles.

“The leadership roles, and that’s consistency of, yes, you always have to be constantly adjusting everything that you’re doing, and reflecting on what you’re doing, and re-evaluating what you’re doing,” Ware said.

So he’s always coaching, and always looking for teachable moments; keenly aware of what kids need.

“It’s love, commitment and consistency,” Ware said.

That’s why his teams excel, perhaps, because they matter to him.

“For a coach, I feel like, a lot of kids told me what he brought in was like toughness, mental toughness,” Kamara said. “He’s more of a mentor kind of to us, because he talks more about school than basketball.”

Because the real mission is to move the needle in a young person’s life, and make sure you set the right example.

“If you can make an impact with kids, success will follow,” Ware said. “It’s something that certainly lived true in my life.”

Mike Max