By Jeremy McDonald
INDEPENDENCE, Ore.– Mr. Intensity is back.
After taking a year-off from coaching, the self-proclaimed basketball junkie in Dean Sanderson has returned to the High School realms as the new Head Coach of Central High School after Tim Kreta stepped down a month ago.
“I’m looking forward to a new opportunity at Central. The tradition is strong with great coaches and alumni, they have great facilities and a ton of community support,” said Sanderson.
“The basketball program for the first time in a while had a down season wins/losses wise last year. The players and coached all have something to prove. I’m excited to coach a hungry team that is ready to work and compete in a very tough league.”
Since moving to 5A in 2014, the Panthers reached the State playoffs the next five years before going 4-20 this past Winter with a young team. Turning over seven Seniors from their 2018 team as Silverton and West Albany reached Gill Coliseum in 2019.
During that time, Sanderson was at the helm at McKay High School. Bringing a trap defense and high-paced offense to the then-Greater Valley Conference between the 2015-2016 season and the 2017-2018 seasons with a pro-guard lineup after the Scots reached the first-round of the playoffs in 2014.
“I learned real quick at McKay that in order to give our teams the best chance to win,” starts Sanderson. “We had to be flexible and creative in order to compete with teams that had great players like the kids you mentioned. We did things X’s and o’s wise that I would have never thought we would have done.”
The Scots reached the play-in round in 2017 and 2018, coming up one possession away from reaching the bracket. Splitting with the Jaden Nielsen-Skinner-led South Salem Saxons and Kyle Greeley-led West Salem Titans in 2017, both are now at Portland State University.
The experience having to scout against those two Division-I players and those teams, plus teams like a McNary, Sprague, the Bulldogs and Vikings when they were 6A, etc., has helped Sanderson’s awareness moving into the tough Mid-Willamette Conference.
“Hopefully that experience helps at Central. We have a tough challenge as the league is filled with good experienced coaches and winning programs,” said the 1999-Dallas Graduate.
“Each group is different. We had major challenges at McKay every year but I could always count on having resilient kids who were a joy to be around. I’m hopeful that my new team will have that quality as well.”
Sanderson went 64-136 in eight seasons at McKay, his last coming during the 2018-2019 season before stepping down. Now with some time has passed, Sanderson had the itch to return to the High School-ranks once more.
“The timing was right to step away at McKay both for the program and for me personally. I loved coaching my oldest son’s middle school team and I learned a ton from going to different practices and games around the area,” said Sanderson.
“But I’m a basketball junkie. I missed it at the high school level and more importantly I missed being around kids on a daily basis.”