Rick Sloan has found magic several times with his Central Valley boys basketball team, although he rejects any claim to being a magician.
Magic, however, is always a sometime, fleeting thing.
“If I knew how to find it, we’d find it every year,” he insists.
In 2006 Sloan’s Bears had a magical run to reach the state finals, where they lost to Franklin. Last year’s team followed that same script.
Unheralded at start the season, the Bears won 22 of 26 games and found themselves playing in the state championship game, falling to Yakima’s Davis Pirates, 48-42.
Last year’s magicians, Sloan said, were a group of dedicated seniors.
“That was a group of kids who wanted to make sure that, when they went out, they’d be remembered,” the coach said. “They all had a similar focus, they all practiced hard, they were never selfish. You need to have a lot of luck to make a run like that, and we did. We stayed healthy all year long.”
This year’s Bears team has started quickly, climbing to 4-0 overall, 3-0 in the Greater Spokane League, to start the season with a thrilling win at University on Tuesday, and the team faced a big challenge in Gonzaga Prep Friday night – in a game of unbeaten league co-leaders.
Adam Chamberlain’s free throw with just one second remaining in the game lifted CV to a 54-53 win at U-Hi.
“We’re not playing really well – yet,” Sloan said. “We’re playing pretty good defense, but we’re not shooting the ball the way I’d like. We’re going to get there. I know our shooting is going to come around sooner or later.
“The U-Hi game was a good win for us. I’m not sure if we had some defensive lapses or they ran some very good plays to get some very good looks from the outside, but they shoot very well from the outside and that’s how they built a first-half lead.”
The Titans led by eight points at intermission, but Beau Byus led a second-half charge with 11 of his team-high 19 points, with Chamberlain adding another 15 for CV, which did not take a lead until there was 2:31 left in the game.
“This is a different team from the one we had last year,” Sloan said. “We just have one starter back and that’s Austin Rehkow. Ryan Deckard, Beau Byus and Adam Chamberlain played some and we have some kids who played JV for us last year. When you have new guys, they need to figure out a whole new makeup: figure out new leaders and new scorers.
“They’ve found some new incentives and they had a good summer of work.”
One of Central Valley’s secret weapons always has been the support the school enjoys between coaches from different sports and differing seasons.
If the names from that returning group sound familiar, they should. Rehkow electrified the nation with his 67-yard field goal in October to tie CVs game with Shadle Park. Chamberlain played quarterback for Sloan, who doubles as the Bears offensive coordinator.
Encouraging high school athletes to play multiple sports, especially at large schools, is not commonplace.
“There is a temptation to be a little selfish about it all,” Sloan said. “You don’t want to see your star player get hurt playing another sport. I understand that. It means we don’t always start the season with everyone there if the football team is deep in the playoffs. It means starting the season with guys who are beat up from playing football.”
It helps that Sloan and football coach Rick Giampietri have a solid relationship.
But what it comes down to in the end, Sloan said, it’s all about doing what you would want your own son to be able to do. It comes down to being a dad.
“You want your kid to have a great high school experience,” he said. “My son is like that – he’s a football/basketball kid. Rick (Giampietri) feels the same way and felt the same way with his own kids. So you encourage them to play all the sports.
“There’s so much more to high school when you do as many things as you can. There are social opportunities when you play football that are different from the ones from basketball. So we’re always encouraging our kids to play as many different sports as they want to play.”