ALEDO — For nearly two decades, Shawn Strachan was a fixture on the sidelines for the Rockridge girls' basketball team.
Having guided the Rockets for the last 16 seasons, Strachan compiled a 236-217 record and led his teams to back-to-back Class A regional championships in 2006 and '07, winning 42 of 59 games in that two-year span.
But with Rockridge opting to go in a different direction with its girls' program after last winter's 7-19 finish, Strachan will be in a new role when the 2019-20 prep season gets underway in just over four months.
After resigning as the Rockets' head coach, Strachan has caught on at Mercer County, where he will serve as Golden Eagles' coach Katie Engwall's assistant.
Rockridge topped Class 2A regional host MerCo 42-27 in the first round this past season before losing 43-42 to Three Rivers West Division champion Riverdale in the semifinals.
"It's been kind of refreshing," he said. "Katie called me after I decided to resign, after I had been told I would not be re-hired, and she asked if I was still interested in coaching. She wanted someone with a lot of experience and some fresh ideas, and I said absolutely.
"We just did our summer league down in Galesburg, and our varsity team is going to be pretty darn good. We're going to do some good things."
Engwall is likewise enthused, considering what her new assistant brings to the program just in terms of experience alone.
"It's going to make a massive difference," said Engwall, who will be entering her fifth year at the helm. "When we finally got the T's crossed and the I's dotted, we felt like we had hit a home run with Shawn. Experience is something you don't have, until you have it."
At Mercer County, Strachan will be part of a squad that finished 11-16 last winter but returns four-fifths of its starting lineup. The group is led by senior guard Karli Stineman, who topped the Eagles last year with 13.5 points per game.
Making the adjustment to being an assistant after running his own program for so many years, one of the first things he and Engwall talked about was the definition and respect of coaching boundaries.
"My biggest issue, and Katie and I talked about it, was that I didn't want to overstep my bounds," he said. "I just want to help out. Our first day, she said to run drills but also asked if I could bring something else to the table. It made me feel good about stepping in here."
Replacing Ty Goben on the Eagles' staff, Strachan will bring more than his coaching resume to Mercer County.
"He brings an entirely different personality," said Engwall. "Right away, the girls took to him and liked him. We know we're bringing in someone who's a good teacher of the game."
While he will look back with pride on his years at Rockridge and the athletes he got to work with, Strachan is focusing his energies on his new position and what he sees as a bright future for the Golden Eagles.
"I've got to move on and take the next step forward," he stated. "Sometimes, change is not a terrible thing. You've got to look at the positives, and I'm definitely looking forward to the future."