NORTH BEND — The annual coaches dinner on the eve of the Class 3A state tournament is rarely a time for trash talking. This year, the coaches were overly complimentary of each other and, especially, the tournament hosts.
The 16 coaches had a chance to talk about their teams and the tournament during the annual dinner at the North Bend Hall of Champions.
A typical comment was the one by Dayton coach Scott Spink, directed to the tournament committee.
“You guys do it right — you really do,” he said.
Added Horizon Christian coach Dave Brown: “You are creating lifetime memories for these kids. That’s what it’s all about.
“The players just love it. From our heart, thank you very much.”
Several of the coaches have had a chance to be a part of other state tournaments, and in this tournament when it was held in Salem. They make it clear to parents it’s worth the extra drive to the South Coast.
Cascade Christian coach Scott Morse has seen his school grow over his 29 years, which has allowed him to coach in all of the smaller state tournaments.
“Baker was awesome,” he said of the Class 1A tournament (Class B when he coached there). “Pendleton was more awesome. Salem, I won’t say anything about that.
“This place is just amazing.”
The various coaches also praised their respective opponents.
Ben Brown, the coach of top-ranked girls team Salem Academy, said Lakeview, the presumptive underdog as the lowest-seeded team in the tournament, will be a handful for his squad.
“It’s going to be a tough matchup,” Brown said.
Lakeview is the only team in this year’s tournament never to have made the trek to Coos Bay since the event returned to the Bay Area in 2011.
“It’s just a pleasure to be here,” Lakeview coach Brandi Harris said. “Our community has celebrated the girls, and said it’s about time something good happened for Lakeview.”
The Honkers got a firetruck escort out of town before their long trip to the Bay Area on Wednesday, and are excited about the opportunity, even battling the Crusaders.
“We’re going to compete,” Harris said. “They’re a great group of girls.”
Other coaches used to the annual banquet made light-hearted comments about their matchups.
“I’m sure we’re right where everyone wants to be — playing Dayton in the first round,” Nyssa girls coach Jeremy Chamberlain said of his squad’s quarterfinal matchup with the two-time defending champions.
Both Dayton teams have been powerhouse squads in recent years.
“We drew the short straw with Dayton,” Horizon Christian’s Dave Brown said. “They are a fine basketball team and supremely coached.”
The two West Valley League rivals have had several memorable tournament matchups, usually with the state title on the line.
“I thought it was in the fine print that Dayton and Horizon Christian are supposed to play in the finals,” Dave Brown said.
Noted Dayton coach Ron Hop: “We got to travel four hours to play a team from our league,” before adding “We’ve got our hands full (with the Hawks). We’re looking forward to it.”
Salem Academy’s boys have been here three straight years, and feature a group of nine seniors who were here as sophomores. But coach Ryan Kendall is in his first year coaching the team after arriving from Kansas last summer.
“They have more experience than I have,” Kendall said of his team.
Interestingly, while Kendall is here for the first time, he was excited to learn the tournament’s location when he arrived in Oregon. His wife, the former Hannah Smith, is a North Bend graduate.
Another team with repeated success has been Blanchet Catholic’s boys, who have been to the Bay Area all seven years since the tournament returned.
Coach Scott Cantonwine summed up the experience by talking about the excitement on the drive down from Salem each year, followed by the trip back to the Willamette Valley.
“You see the ‘Leaving North Bend’ sign and I can’t wait to get back,” Cantonwine said. “Win, lose or draw, it’s a great experience.”
Some of the coaches also praised the relationships they build with the volunteer team greeters.
Portland Adventist girls coach Ty Johnson noted that in seven years here, either coaching his team or as a parent for an athlete on the boys squad, he’s had a different team greeter every year. He said he didn’t know what that means for the Cougars, but that it’s good because he’s been able to make a lot of friends.
De La Salle North Catholic boys coach James Broadous II, on the other hand, pointed out that the Knights have had the same greeter all five years they’ve been here, which he selfishly enjoys.
“We get to experience the greatest hosts,” he said of Julie Woodman, Kathy Rose and Roberta Bowers. “We consider them family.”
Most coaches mentioned how proud they were of their team. Broadous did the same, talking about this is a more complete team than the one that reached the championship game last winter. But he also downplayed the team’s strengths, drawing laughs along the way from the other coaches who know better.
“They’re the really tall guys,” he said of the small and speedy Knights and their fast-break style. “We play really slow.”
While all the coaches talked about how excited they are to be here, Coquille coach Tim GeDeros said what they all are probably thinking, but none of the others volunteered.
The Red Devils lost to Dayton in the semfinals and Salem Academy in the third-place game last winter and are hoping for better.
“Hopefully, at the end of this, we are 3-0 and everyone else is 2-1,” GeDeros said.