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Clarion Calls

Posted: Thursday, April 01, 2010

Jeff's call: Time for another switch?

This year, the Alaska School Activities Association switched the schedules for the small- and big-schools tournaments at March Madness Alaska.

Normally, the small schools, or Class 1A and 2A teams, play Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The big schools, or Class 3A and 4A teams, play Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

This year, the big schools played Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, while the small schools played Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

I heard some grumbling about the switch, but no outright cries of objection.

That switch got me to thinking about another basketball schedule switch I read about in March of last year on the Kodiak Konfidential blog.

The Northern Lights Conference tournament was being held at the time and the blogger, you can call him Ishmael, wondered if the way girls and boys basketball games are scheduled is a subtle form of gender bias.

There are some exceptions, but for the most part the girls always play before the boys in both regular-season and tournament basketball. Is this a subtle signal that boys basketball is more important than the girls?

I honestly don't know the answer to this. As the Clarion sports editor, I run daily NBA stories. All I run for the WNBA is standings. I'll also run men's college basketball capsules, but rarely run women's college basketball capsules, during the regular season.

When it comes to prep sports, I try to make the coverage equitable. Usually, it's the more competitive of the girls and boys basketball games that gets the most coverage.

If anything, boys will get less coverage in certain instances because there is less time between the end of a boys game and deadline.

As far as attendance, if there's a difference in the way girls and boys games are attended, I don't notice it. Especially at conference tournaments, like the two held here on the central peninsula this month, attendance at the girls and boys finals was identical.

In fact, the difference in attendance between the Class 2A and 4A boys finals is going to be a lot greater than the difference in attendance between the Class 4A girls and boys finals.

I'm not accusing ASAA or the high schools of gender bias. But if ASAA is willing to flop the small and big schools at state, ASAA and the high schools should also be more willing to flop the girls and boys start times.

Mike's call: David's return good for Brown Bears

For the first time since the organization's inception, the Kenai River Brown Bears' head coach will return for a second season. Though nothing official has been signed, Oliver David is preparing for his second year as Kenai River's skipper.

David, the team's fourth coach in three years, took over for Marty Quarters when he was fired just 12 games into the 2009-10 campaign.

During a recent interview, David compared finding the right line combinations to mathematics.

"To build four lines is like long division, it takes the entire semester to solve," he said.

That process is more difficult when a new teacher takes over midway through the year. Just as the students were learning the instructor's teaching style, someone new, with a different method of passing on information, takes over as head of the class.

While consistency in the roster is an advantage, consistency in coaching is a must, especially for a developing program.

"Hockey teams are very rarely built in one season," David said.

Exactly.

So how can a young program improve with annual coaching changes?

It can't.

Retaining David is a great first step for a brighter Kenai River future.

Not only should a coach be granted more than one season to make a difference -- David's been at the helm less than a full season -- coaching consistency helps keep players. Each new coach has new recruits. Once that coach leaves, often those recruits do too.

A still-developing program, like the Brown Bears, must give a coach more than one season. A new head coach needs a chance to establish a style of play and method of coaching so future players know what to expect. If the only thing that's certain is that the coach won't be returning next season, you can forget about attracting talented players.

Though this season hasn't ended, David's return is already bettering next year's squad.

"The core group of potential returning players is promising," David said.

It's hard to say if that would hold true should the Brown Bears repeat history for a third straight year. My guess is, most likely not.

In his office, David has the names of all potential returners listed on a dry erase board. Names of top recruits are also listed.

That type of preseason work is essential for building a program, and it's something Kenai River has never had. Each year the Brown Bears have gone through the process of finding a new coach, then the recruiting process could begin. This year, David can get a jump on next year's team as soon as the season ends.

Bringing David back bodes well for the 2010-11 season. It's a great first step to strengthening next year's team, but more importantly, the program as a whole.

Mike Nesper and Jeff Helminiak work in the sports department at the Peninsula Clarion. They can be reached at sports@peninsulaclarion.com.



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