When the Western Hills girls’ basketball job opened up at the end of last season, senior-to-be Montana Muravchick had the perfect candidate in mind: her brother.
“She came to me and said, ‘Hey, we want a fun coach and someone who’s gonna push us for the season. Why don’t you apply?’” said Brandon Muravchick, who was a boys’ coach at Elkhorn Middle School.
Brandon, 37, hadn’t coached girls since his first time on the sidelines back in 2001, when Buddy Ritchie approached him to coach an intramural team. Brandon was reluctant then — “I’m not coaching no basketball team,” Brandon told Ritchie at the time —– and was reluctant last spring about obliging his sister.
He talked it over with his wife and daughters and decided to apply. Brandon in June was named head girls’ basketball coach at Western Hills. It’s been a big adjustment, he said, but having family always in his midst has made the transition easier.
“Coming into a new school and this type of atmosphere, it’s very hard as a coach to gain the girls’ trust,” Brandon said. “They still don’t trust the entire staff yet cause it’s our first year, so it’s gonna take three or four years before we finally get a program going to where we can go. But I think she has softened the blow on me a little bit because I know her. Because of our relationship and her knowing the other girls, it’s helped me to be able to come in and coach them.”
Brandon didn’t just inherit the opportunity to coach a sister, but the prospect of having to coach against another.
Jaylin Muravchick, a freshman, plays basketball and softball, just like Montana, but she does so for Franklin County High School, their family’s home district. When Montana was in middle school most of the members of her travel softball team were from the side of town districted for Western Hills. She wanted to attend the same school as her friends, so Montana successfully lobbied her parents to channel her into Bondurant Middle School, which feeds into Western Hills, before her eighth-grade year began.
Gregg Muravchick is the father of all three as well as Justin Muravchick, another adult son who along with Brandon is from a previous marriage. He joked that he and his wife Libby, the mother of both girls, kicked Montana out of the house before sharing the true story.
“She wanted to go there so we went through the proper procedures and see if she could,” said Gregg. “She stayed here and never looked back.”
As for the younger Muravchick sister…
“Jaylin has very adamantly said she’s not going to the west side,” Libby said with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘Leave it on the court. Whatever happens, don’t bring it into the house.’ So they stay compatible. They’re sisters, so they have that love-hate relationship like most sisters.”
That doesn’t stop Brandon from trying to persuade Jaylin to switch allegiances.
“I told (Franklin County) Coach (Joey) Thacker the other day, ‘Y’know I’m gonna get Jaylin from ya for next year,’” Brandon said. “He said, ‘We’ll have to talk about that.’ I’d love to coach her, too.”
The first opportunity for a Jaylin versus Montana matchup occurred on Jan. 5, when Western Hills hosted Franklin County in a 41st District bout. The Flyers, a preseason top-10 team, left with a 56-23 win over their crosstown rival, and Jaylin, who played in the junior varsity game earlier that night, got some varsity run late in the contest.
Gregg half-joked to his son that he should leave Montana on the court if Jaylin got into the game, but Brandon was too frustrated by the end of the night to consider it.
“I don’t really think of it as coaching family,” Brandon said. “I don’t treat her no different than any of the girls. I’m just as hard on her as everyone.”
Their teams will meet at least one more time this season, at Franklin County on Jan. 26. Montana welcomes the idea of guarding her sister.
“That would’ve been kind of cool to play against her,” Montana said after the first game. “Y’know, steal the ball from her, knock her down a little bit.”
Jaylin brushed aside that ribbing before the sisters were presented a hypothetical: if a district championship is on the line in a tie game, who’s making the game-winning play?
“Oh, it’ll definitely be me hitting the shot because she would miss and I’d rub it in her face,” Montana said without hesitation.
“See, I’m the more laid back one because she’s just too competitive,” Jaylin said.
“You’ve gotta be like that to win,” Montana said.
Gregg and Libby often are pulled in opposite directions; one goes to Jaylin’s game, the other to Montana’s. A friend of the family had custom “House Divided” sweatshirts made for the two when their daughters’ teams would play one another.
It was Gregg who instilled the sports bug into all of his children. He’s coached all of them at some point in youth and travel leagues. Several of the girls at Franklin County and Western Hills have learned under him, too, so his personal stake in both games goes beyond his daughters.
“Most of the girls on both sides I’ve coached a few times in my life one time or another, either in softball or basketball,” Gregg said. “So it’s been fun watching them grow up.”
Gregg is in his 40th year of police work and in a career that’s taken up across most of the state. The Chicago native has served as the director of public safety at Transylvania University since 2011.
Brandon followed his father into the family vocation — he’s worked for the Lexington Police Department for the last 10 years — but never intended to follow him into the family avocation.
“I’ll be honest with you, I never even thought I wanted to be a coach,” Brandon said. “You’re not gonna find a better coach than my dad when it comes to coaching young kids. My dad is very great at fundamentals and he’s such a motivator. I take a lot of my coaching from him and the way I was coached by him.”
Montana concurred; she sees a lot of her dad in Brandon’s approach to coaching. The two always have gotten along, Libby said, but their new shared dynamic has made them grow closer.
“A year ago if you’d said, ‘Oh, are you gonna be this close with your brother in a year?’ I would have said no,” Montana said. “We didn’t talk every day a year ago, and now we talk and see each other almost every day. If I don’t see him he usually calls me or I call him. We talk a lot.”
Brandon got a jab in. “I don’t know if I like talking to her every day,” he said.
“He’s lying, he’s lying,” Montana said with a laugh.
Montana is one of three seniors on Western Hills’ squad this season. They’ve made life easier on Brandon in his first season and he dreads that they’ll all graduate, but there’s one that will be a bit harder to watch take part in the Wolverines’ Senior Night festivities.
“Montana’s such a hard-nosed player that she wants everybody wants to get to that level she’s at, and not everybody can get to that same level she gets to,” Brandon said. “I’m really gonna miss that next year and come Senior Night, that’s it. I don’t know what else to do. You don’t want to see that go.”
Jaylin insists that she’ll stay at Franklin County, but Brandon’s gonna keep on working that line just in case he can get a bite.
“I’m hoping that I can talk her into coming to the green side for her Senior Night so I can share that same thing with her,” Brandon said. “But hey, if she doesn’t, I won’t hold it against her and I’ll root her on on her Senior Night as well.”