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Tolliver steps down, Hartmann named new coach

Posted on: April 5, 2019
photo of coaches

Matt Tolliver (left) and Felisha Hartmann

One chapter has closed and a new one will begin on the hardwood as the Little Miami women’s basketball program will change leaders beginning in the 2019-2020 season.

Veteran coach Matt Tolliver recently announced his retirement and pending Board of Education approval, junior varsity coach Felisha Hartmann will step up to become the new head coach.

Tolliver coached at Little Miami for the past eight years, leading the Lady Panthers to three Southwest Ohio Conference championships. In addition, he was selected Coach of the Year in both 2014 and 2019, and ended this past season one game shy of his 100th win.

While Tolliver’s departure is a challenge to overcome, Athletic Director Keith Pantling said Hartmann’s proven track record and dedication to women’s basketball at Little Miami made her the ideal candidate.

“We’ve watched Felisha in action. After recent conversations with her it became even more evident that the best candidate to lead our women’s basketball program was already on campus,” he said. “Felisha has a passion for coaching basketball and leading young women, and maybe equally important, a passion for Little Miami. She’s played a critical role in elevating our program - youth through high school - in recent years and deserves this opportunity.”

Little Miami was Tolliver’s first varsity head coaching job after he had led junior varsity teams in Michigan and youth teams in Indiana. When he came to LMHS, he found the women’s program in a weakened state.

“When I took over, it wasn't popular to play for the high school,” he said. “Most of the girls played for a travel team and not for the high school.  There was no freshman and no JV team and we only had one returning player.”

photo of basketball coach

Tolliver worked to build continuity in player development and build enthusiasm for high school basketball in grades 7-12. He instituted youth summer camps and a Youth Night at a women’s home game each season, with varsity and JV players mingling with younger girls to build camaraderie. And not only did athletes develop playing skills on their way to high school, they also had developed close relationships.

“We preach we are a family all the time,” Tolliver said. “Sometimes you get mad at your family, but you never stop loving and caring for them and hope they know if they ever need anything all they have to do is ask.”

The positive results of this work showed up on the court. The Lady Panthers perennially have fielded varsity, JV and freshmen teams when other schools have had difficulty pulling together varsity and JV. Little Miami has also advance to sectional semi finals the last four years and made the sectional finals in 2018. The team has also met – and beaten – several Eastern Cincinnati Conference teams, which has Tolliver feeling like the program is ready to make the leap to the new conference in two years.

Tolliver will take some time off to decide his next move, but said that the experiences he had leading the Lady Panthers will always be a part of him.

“I love those kids. They mean the world to me and I hope they know that,” he said. “I have given everything in my heart and soul to this program the last eight years and I feel like I was able to accomplish everything that is possible to get done at LM. These eight years have been some of the best of my life and I wouldn't change one thing about my experience.”

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