Sneakers screech against fresh wax. Sweat pours down determined faces. A coach’s whistle pierces the humid air.
It’s not spoken, but the coach’s mantra is clear to everyone in the O’Connell Sports Center: “Repeat, repeat. Repetition is the key to success!”
Clark men’s basketball players have their eyes on the championship of the Northwest Athletic Conference once again, despite a major personnel change.
Alex Kirk, who has coached the Penguins since the 2012-13 season, racked up a 91-30 record, and the 2015 championship. Kirk stepped down in December, a few weeks after he and his wife greeted their first baby.
In Kirk’s place is Kevin Johnson, entering his 23rdyear of coaching but his first year for Clark. Athletic Director Chris Jacob promoted the former assistant head coach for the remainder of the season. The coaches’ similar philosophies and mindsets made for a fluid transition, said Dylan Jordan, an injured player.
“It was tough on the student-athletes,” to lose a head coach in the middle of the season but they have remained unphased, said Jacob.The team has “kept their heads up,” in spite of the situation, said Parker Gaddis, another injured player this season. Jacob commend’s Clark’s
athletes and coaches for maintaining a culture of maturity, respect and intricate coaching philosophies.
As of Jan. 26, the similar coaching strategies resulted in a 7-4 record since Johnson took over, including a 2-3 record against opponents from the South Region.
Still, seven teams out of nine are currently ahead of Clark in the NWAC South Region standings. However, second-year starting guard, Ty Cleland, is determined to win. “If we come together, we can do anything. I think we can win it all,” he said.
Whether the team wins the championship this year or not, they will most likely be in for a familiar transition next season. Cleland said he hopes that Kirk will exercise the option to resume his coaching role next year, granted to him by Jacob.
Although the choice is up to Kirk, “We want him to come back, so we will just presume that is going to happen and go from there,” Johnson said.
Cleland and Gaddis said they hope that both coaches have a role in the team next year due to their emphasis on repetition and preparation. Kirk was so detail oriented that he would tape the practices and watch the film compiled throughout the week to stress the fundamentals before a game.
“Every aspect of being a successful player at the college level is a skill that can be sharpened daily,” Johnson said.