Turner — For the first time in a while, the Cascade Boys Basketball team has feeling of anticipation and buzz entering the season. With renewed energy, a strong leader at the helm, a new culture of brotherhood and discipline, and some under the radar talents, the Cougars could be a surprise across the state in 2019-20. Long time assistant coach and former Salem Academy star Calvin Molan took over the reins as the new head coach this year, and has spent little time instituting change to the Cascade program. After a hard Saturday practice, Coach Molan took the time to talk about his program, which has the expectation of hitting new heights under his leadership.
Every first year coach goes through the process of gathering first impressions and assessing what they have in their program. Coach Molan has some background with being an Cascade assistant coach, but he talked his first impressions as the head and face of the program.
Coach Molan: “I’ve been pretty pleasantly surprised by the group as a whole. Looking back after tryouts, we ultimately ended up with a great group of guys that have been on it even with details like keeping their jerseys tucked in, not leaving their practice jerseys at home, and they’ve been stepping up and holding each other accountable. They’ve been stepping up and reminding each other without us coaches having to and its been a nice surprise to start the season that we have leaders that have been stepping up, taking charge, and making sure everyone is taking care of business.”
Changing from one head coach to another requires some level of change, something that players can struggle with at times. For Coach Molan, he has prioritized instituting a culture of discipline, brotherhood, and accountability. This change has come easy for Cascade, as Coach Nolan had those expectations while coaching the Cougars JV squad, so it was just about getting all the new guys in on it.
Coach Molan: “For me its been nice going from JV to Varsity coach, I’ve built relationships with some of these guys from their time with me on JV, so they know the expectations and its been a nice start to pick up where we left off on JV and getting the other guys on board pretty quick with my expectations. For us, one of the more important weekends was last weekend when we had a brotherhood retreat that set the culture we want to start, doing some team building activities, and setting goals before we came home. We also talked about how can we work our hardest each day to come closer to accomplishing those goals.”
Turning Player Experiences Into Coaching
Calvin Molan was a star player at the Salem Academy, going on to play college basketball and eventually returned to Salem-Keizer as an assistant coach at Cascade under his predecessor Steve Ball. I asked the new coach about his experiences as a player, more particularly in terms of things he learned that he now applies as a coach.
Coach Molan: “The biggest piece is those details. Coming out of high school, I had a successful season and I ended up at Chemeketa where we played for the conference title two years in a row. That wasn’t off of talent at all, we were pretty mediocre sized players but were skilled, family oriented, and focused on the details. If they weren’t done correctly, we would do them over again until we understood it and that was a big thing for me to bring in to the high school level. For those that have a chance to play at the next level, its something for them to get into the mindset of now before they get to the next level, that way it isn’t a shocker or a mental battle either. College is another level where coaches get on you pretty quick and fiercely, but its all out of love and they just have expectations they expect you to meet.”
Offensive and Defensive Philosophy
Cascade has a lot of underrated talent, better described as untapped potential. For Coach Molan, this has presented the interesting challenge of developing a system that fits the team strengths and weaknesses. Coach Molan gave some great insight into how Cascade is approaching the season on the court strategically.
Coach Molan on the offense: “Were going to have some set plays in there, but for the most part its them learning how to play and playing off each other. Teaching them how to play, play with each other, and learning reads as we’re playing. Playing aggressive and up tempo, then we step backwards from there and teach the different reads and movements, and ultimately hopefully get to the point where we can run a set. If we don’t get anything out the set, then its Option 1 and Option 2 right into the motion offense. There is no real down time where we back it all out and call something else, we just stay aggressive and help our up tempo piece.”
Coach Molan on the defense: “Where we’ll be hanging our hat this year is on defense. The defensive end is what’s going to ultimately create our offensive end. We believe we’re one of the best if not the best transition team in the state, but in order to get into transition we have to get defensive stops. These first couple of weeks we’ve really been focused on our half court defense and pressure. Now we’re trickling into full court stuff, but getting down to that hard nosed half court defense where we can get stops and get opportunities to get out and run in transition. Our goal is hard nosed defense and let that create offensive opportunities.”
As previously mentioned, Cascade comes into the year with a lot of untapped potential and talent. This is exciting for Coach Molan, who has had the privilege of developing some of them at the JV level, and now has the chance to get them into star varsity roles. Coach Molan discussed the talent and his key go-to players as he enters Year 1 at the helm.
Coach Molan: “For us we’ve got my nephew Carson Molan, he’s been a two year varsity starting point guard running the offense for us. I’ve got that previous strong relationship with him, so now that he’s an upperclassman, we expect him to take on that leadership role and being able to run the team. We’ve got a few other good returners in Drake Davis, Matt-Alex Raney is tough, and Elijah Nolan is a senior who is probably the best athlete in this school. Elijah is a leader on the football team, basketball, and track, just a high character kid that does really well in his classes and is always an encourager. He is someone we can really count on with his leadership qualities and is a tough athlete to compete against. Him and Carson are going to be our key pieces in leadership and running the team. Drake has been doing a great job taking on the challenge of stepping into a leadership role, and he’s not naturally a loud, vocal, but on the court he takes things very seriously and has stepped up to the plate already.”
Team Expectations and Goals
To wrap up an in-depth interview about the team he is building, I asked Coach Molan to tell me about the team expectations and goals, giving the Cougars milestones to achieve on the way to the ultimate goal.
Coach Molan: “As part of hanging our hat on the defensive end, we set a goal of holding opponents to 55 points or below. That was a big one that everyone was on board with and agreeing on that the defense is what is going to get us wins. We have a lot of offensive weapons, but we need to lock down on the defensive end so that we have that freedom. Another big one is that we want to protect our home court and go undefeated on it. That first test is Wednesday against Seaside and if anything, we just don’t want to lose a league game at home, and that’s what we came to agreement on. We want to win league, but if we finish in the top three then we feel that will give us a good shot for a home play-in game, and then obviously make the tournament where anything can happen in.
Cascade opens the 2019-20 season on Wednesday at home against Seaside.