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Mlachnik, Garrett influential for title-clinching West Allis Central team

Coach, point guard earn All-Suburban honors

April 3, 2012

West Allis - Jimmy Carter was president, Magic Johnson battled Larry Bird for the NCAA basketball championship and the "We Are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series.

The year was 1979, which was the previous time that West Allis Central had won a conference championship in boys basketball.

That 33-year drought came to an end this season, as the Bulldogs claimed the Greater Metro Conference crown with a 12-2 mark. They also broke a string of losing seasons by putting together a 19-5 record.

Head coach David Mlachnik was the architect of the turnaround, while junior guard Jarvis Garrett was its driving force.

Mlachnik moved into the boys coaching job after directing the Central girls for the past two seasons. He helped mold the Bulldogs, who possessed plenty of talent, into a team.

Garrett, the point guard, furthered the team philosophy with his unselfish play, leading the team in scoring but also in assists and steals.

Both are being honored for their accomplishments by being named to the 2011-12 NOW Newspapers All-Suburban team. Garrett was one of 12 player selections, while Mlachnik is the co-coach of the year along with Steve Showalter of Division 1 champion Germantown.

Coach, team had clear goal

Mlachnik applied for the boys job after Lou Chapman left Central, and it became his during the summer of 2011.

"I called an (introductory) team meeting with the players," he recalled. "I knew the guys from my time coaching the girls the past few years. I knew we had the talent going in and we had a lot returning. We just needed to put everything together.

"Our goal was the same as everyone's: to win conference. I knew, with the talent we had, the possibility was there."

Garrett said the players were also thinking about that elusive conference crown.

"We didn't know we would get it or anything, but we wanted to work hard to get it," he said. "We talked about it."

Preaching defense

When preseason practices began in November, Mlachnik worked hard on the basics.

"It all starts on the defensive end," he said. "Our first two weeks were spent all on defense. We wanted to play a good man defense with a little zone mixed in. Offensively, we wanted to share the ball and play the right way."

The drive for the title appeared to be derailed early, as Central started 2-2 with narrow losses to preseason favorites Brookfield Central and Wauwatosa East.

Mlachnik held a special meeting and told the players just to try to get better each day and to focus more on the little things in games.

He reiterated that message after a disappointing loss to Menomonee Falls, again talking about focus.

"After that, in practices, we were better focused each day," Mlachnik said.

Mission complete

As a result, the Bulldogs won their final 10 GMC contests to claim the championship.

"That meant a lot to us," Garrett said. "It was a huge accomplishment. I've been trying for that since freshman year. We just wanted it more this year. Coach helped us by working us hard in practice. Practice was like a real game."

Mlachnik said winning the championship was truly rewarding.

"In the game where we clinched it, the student section came onto the floor, and the kids cut down the nets," he recalled with a smile. "We had great support from the students and community all year."

Mlachnik and Garrett will be back next season, trying to bring Central its second straight championship. They both want to follow the 33-year drought with a wellspring of success.

CENTRAL HONOREES

DAVID MLACHNIK, COACH

HIGH SCHOOL: St. Thomas More, where he played guard on the basketball team and shared Player of the Year honors in the old Metro Conference in 1986

COLLEGE: He attended and played at Rice University in Texas before transferring to the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

COACHING: He helped out on a volunteer basis at Milwaukee Vincent, then coached Vincent's junior varsity team for one season. He also was the freshman boys coach at Muskego for two years before becoming the head girls coach at West Allis Central. He directed the Bulldogs for two seasons before taking the head boys job at Central last summer

PHILOSOPHY: "This is not just about basketball. The academics come first. I want the kids to represent the school well and be good young men. They did a good job in school this year and were pushing each other on grades."

JARVIS GARRETT, GUARD

THIS SEASON: Garrett led the Bulldogs in scoring (13.3 points), assists (6.0) and steals (3.1). He was the floor leader for Central, directing the offense and spearheading the defense.

MLACHNIK ON GARRETT: "He is a great leader, a point guard who did it all. He was an extension of me on the floor. Defensively, he would pick up the opposing point guard, and he ran our offense."

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