Dec 1, 2011

It's not time to panic... yet.

Head Coach Clif Wegner (left, in black) celebrates  with his team after winning the 2007 NWAACC title. Clackamas went 29-4 that year, setting their record for most wins in a single season. The mark was met in 2009, also a championship year.

While still in the preseason, Clackamas Community College men's basketball may be in for a rough year if things don't turn around quick.

I met this season of men's basketball at Clackamas with some optimism.

This year's team has plenty of returning talent and a few strong transfer additions, including Taylor Dunn, a transfer from Central Washington that has lit up the scoreboard so far.

The men began the season ranked 3rd in the NWAACC. They started off 3-0 and knocked off the #2 team in the league, Tacoma, in the second round of their preseason tournament. That's reason for hope, right?

Well, yeah. That is until you take a look at what has happened since.

After advancing past Tacoma to the finals of the tournament, Clackams suffered an embarrassing loss, falling 64-53 to unranked Walla Walla in a game that Head Coach Clif Wegner called "feckless, inept [and] disjointed."

That game set a bar, and a bad one. It was the lowest scoring game in Wegner's 16 year career at Clackamas. Things could only get better, right? Wrong.

Two nights later, that bar got even lower as the Cougars fell to unranked Clark 75-52.

After two disheartening losses in a row, I begin to wonder who made the mistake. Did Clackamas not deserve their #3 ranking, or are they simply not playing up to it?

Looking at the record of Wegner's teams, you'll want to rule out both options. Ever since 2000, in Wegner's third season, the Cougars haven't failed to finish in the southern region's top three and hold three NWAACC titles (2007, 2009, 2010). Success has been synonymous for the last 11 seasons, which have averaged 25 victories.

It'd be easy to rule out coaching when looking for a reason for the recent slide. Sometimes team's can have a difficult time finding chemistry. Sometimes players aren't putting their all into games. Sometimes the other team is simply better.

But can you really say that coaching has nothing to do with it? Not really. The coach is the one that has the pulse of the team. He knows, or is supposed to know, the ins and outs of each player's game and is able to balance egos, skill sets, bad habits, friendships and grades. It's an impossible task, really. But for the last decade, it's worked.

Now I'm not saying that the sky is falling and I'm not asking for Wegner's head. In fact, I'm expressing my confidence in him and his team to get the job done. Challenges like this are nothing new to a head coach, and in a month we'll have forgotten about this completely. It's just that they've got another big game against #7 Highline on December 8th. Let's just hope that things get back on track by then.

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