By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– With the preseason just wrapping up this week and the start of the season next week, you can sense a Wind of Change in the McKay High School gym with the Men’s Basketball Team starting with the coaching staff.
First, instilling confidence from the top.
“It’s more about confidence,” said Head JV Coach Matt Espinoza . “Everyone believing that they can win when the game gets close and not really backing down. (To) trying to get inside you that you have nothing more but starting to believe.”
Then, mix the experience from Espinosa with two fellow West Salem High School graduates, a legend in Jack Martino and the fifth-year Head Coach Dean Sanderson, there is reason to be confident entering 2016.
“I think right now at McKay, kids are use to losing. Kids are accepting losing. I think the community is accepts and in other schools in our area accept that McKay isn’t going to be that good and we want to change that.
“We want teams to not looking forward to playing us, know that they’re going to come in to a battle. its going to be hard earn and that it’s going to hurt the next day. They’re going to have to work to beat us.”
Before coming to McKay seven years ago, Sanderson was coaching Junior Varsity at West Salem, but explains the move to the Northeast Salem School.
“I love it here because we have kids here who have great stories,” said Sanderson. “(They) overcome all sorts of life circumstances to get into the gym, to be in school to be a part of a team so for me it’s motivating,
“I think it’s any reason why anyone is coaching is to interact and hopefully make a positive influence on those kind of kids.”
It’s a challenge, Sanderson admits. But he knows he has strong leadership with seniors to set the pace for the year and set an example for the young guys in the program.
“We have a group of seniors who have want it takes to win” he said. “You have that and it’s up to us coaches to come up to a system and coach them up and get them to that point. So I kind of like that challenge.”
A little more in depth about the staff under Sanderson. Espinoza was the former head coach of McNary and is helping out with player development.
“He’s as good as it gets. Any school in the state would want him on their staff, so we have him here.” “. Relating with kids, he has the type of heart for the type of kids we get here at McKay. Kids love him, he’s a huge piece of what we do (here).”
Coach Bryan Huber, Caleb Singleton and Chris Slezak all played for Sanderson at West Salem and went to the state tournament together and all three were successful at the next level in college athletics at Western Oregon and Linfield College.
“They got to be where a lot of our kids dream about being , being a college athlete. Competing at the highest level, playing in tournaments and making the playoffs.
“ It’s just been a great addition. All three relate to kids, they all are really good.”
Lenny Wilson is entering his ninth year with the team.
Then there’s Martino, a legend as Sanderson calls him. Martino led the Royal Scots to prominence in the mid-2000s that featured a league title in 2007.
Multiple Coach of the year awards and a Regional Coach of The Year Award to his resume and he’s coming back to help out after a tenure at North as he’s coming back to McKay to help out.
“It says a lot about him, but about our kids that he would entertain that idea,” said Sanderson. “(It) says a lot about the kinds of kids we get here and that he wants to be a part of it.”
At the end of the day, the plan for Sanderson and his staff is simple.
To be hungry to be successful.
“For us, we’re not going to have the biggest kids, we’re not going to have kids who came up playing years of AAU basketball. But what we do have is kids who have a lot of heart and who are hungry to be successful.”
“I think if you have those two things, then you have a start.”
Monday, November 16 officially starts winter practice and the season starts December 2 for McKay versus Dallas at home.
Jeremy McDonald is a professional sports journalist in the Salem/Portland area and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalist in Oregon with B.S. degrees from Southern Oregon University in Journalism (2011) and Health/PE (2013). Got a story idea? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @J_McDonald81!
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