For the past six years, Eric Daniels has been coach Jake Kates’ right-hand man – three years at Summit Christian Academy and the past three with the William Chrisman boys basketball team.

Following this season, Daniels had a conversation with his good friend and coaching mentor and asked about the possibility of him applying for the vacated Van Horn High School girls position. Falcons coach A.B. Lennox has stepped down to spend more time watching his son Kaimen play Division I basketball at UMKC.

“I told Eric to go for it!” said Kates, who led his team to a 17-10 record this past season. “The time is right, he’s going to a great school and great program, and I am thrilled for him.

“Am I sad to see my buddy go to another team and not sit next to me on the bench at Chrisman? You bet. But I am so happy for him. He’s going to go to Van Horn and be the coach Chris (Corrie, Van Horn activities director) and his team were looking for.”

Kates hired Daniels out of college to be the junior varsity head coach and assistant varsity coach at Summit Christian in Lee’s Summit. Daniels has held the same position at Chrisman the past three years.

“I am thrilled, excited, a little bit nervous – every emotion you can imagine right now,” Daniels said. “Jake has been my mentor, one of my best friends and a coach I have greatly admired the past six years.

“It was fun to build something special at Summit Christian right out of college. He took a chance on me, and he’s the reason I am where I am today, and the past three years at Chrisman have been amazing.

“When I saw that Van Horn had listed the girls basketball job, I talked to Jake and he encouraged me to go for it.”

Kates believes Daniels is the perfect fit for the Falcons program as Lennox has created a basketball culture at the Independence high school. The Falcons went 17-9 this past season and had a nine-game winning streak at one point.

“First off, Eric can coach,” Kates said. “He started a youth program that has become one of the premier girls programs in the metro area, and he loves working with the girls because he has a couple of daughters who can play.

“They’re too young to go to Van Horn right now, but I can see them as future Falcons, and I’m sure Eric is thinking the same thing.”

Daniels’ daughter Aaliyah is a sixth grader and Elliana is a fourth grader at Summit Christian.

“I’m the co-director of the Family Basketball Academy out in Lee’s Summit,” Daniels said, “and we have young ladies from Independence, Fort Osage, Grandview, Lee’s Summit – all over the place.

“I was just thinking how all my dreams are coming true. I never imagined working for a great coach like Jake right out of college. Then he brings me over to Chrisman, and I learned so much with him there.

“And now, I’m the new head girls coach at Van Horn and it would be a dream come true to coach my daughters at Van Horn. But that’s a ways off in the distance.

“I enjoyed my interviews with Coach Corrie and Justin Woods, their principal. And Coach Lennox was in on the interview and we really hit it off and talked a long time after the interview was over.

“I want to help his program grow and develop because he has done some great things with the Van Horn girls and want to keep the program heading in the right direction.”