While a Potomac boys' basketball assistant the past seven seasons, Bobby Lake almost annually came to a conclusion about Osbourn Park players: They were taller than the Panthers he was coaching.

Lake's ambition now is to build a program to match that often superior stature. Osbourn Park on Tuesday named him as its successor to Danny Lawray, who resigned in March after going 38-50 in four seasons.

"There are some big kids," Lake said. "We've just got to make them basketball players."

Lake's teams went 86-37 in six years at Brentsville in the 1990s, with two Bull Run District titles. Since 1997, he has been an assistant coach to Kendall Hayes on Potomac teams that have reached the state tournament five times.

Lake is hoping his track record can help turn around the fortunes of an Osbourn Park program trying to post its first winning season since sometime prior to the 1990s, not counting two Woodbridge forfeits that gave the team a 12-11 record in 2002-03.

"We felt that he was an experienced coach; he seemed to establish a winning tradition no matter where he goes," Osbourn Park Activities Director Dan Evans said. "He gained a lot of valuable experience the last seven years he was at Potomac, and we just felt he was the one to take OP up another level."

There are several encouraging signs for the Yellow Jackets. The school is projected to have the second-largest enrollment in Prince William County (2,663, just 58 fewer students than Gar-Field). Potomac is vacating the Cedar Run District to head back to the Cardinal District starting in 2005. The Osbourn Park football program has reached the Northwestern Region Division 6 final the past two years after many losing seasons.

And the basketball program made strides under Lawray. Osbourn Park went 18-88 the five years prior to his arrival. During his tenure, the Yellow Jackets knocked off Gar-Field, Potomac and Woodbridge for the first time since the 1980s.

The past three seasons, however, Osbourn Park started 7-2, 9-4 and 9-1 and finished 8-14, 10-13 (12-11, including the forfeits) and 10-11.

"I think the kicker behind it all is the kids have to realize they have to get over that hump," Lake said. "When you're in the same district as Potomac, sometimes it could be demoralizing, I guess, but I don't think that's the case. That's my job to make sure those things don't happen. They have to be proud to put on the jersey every time they walk out on the floor. . . . Definitely the pieces of the puzzle are there."

The Yellow Jackets have back 6-foot-7 junior post player Chris Fleming, who averaged a team-high 15.1 ppg last season. The next five leading scorers all graduated. The team will play in the Sleepy Thompson and Metro South leagues this summer.

Lake currently works at Metz Middle School in the city of Manassas but will teach physical education at Osbourn Park this fall. He will no longer coach the Osbourn golf team.

Lake is the fourth new boys' basketball coach hired in the county for next season. The others are Chad Anderson (Woodbridge), Brett Vincent (Battlefield) and Ahmad Dorsett (Freedom).

BOBBY LAKE