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Who's Bret Vandergard and what's he done for us lately? [DDSCB3]

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 Meaghan Kriley, Spokane Spokesman-Review Columnist:

 

Eastern Washington University’s basketball team just completed a down, then up season. After going 2-9 in pre-conference play and then splitting their first 6 games in the Big Sky, they went on to win their last 8 of 10 in the Big Sky and finish in 2nd place in the conference. Since the Eagles had been picked to finish near the bottom in the conference, the rarefied air near the top of the conference was an unexpected surprise for most everyone that follows Big Sky basketball. The Eagles then went on to win their first two games in the conference tournament which put them into the championship game. The Cinderella Eagles came up against the tolling of midnight as they lost to North Dakota. While their 15-15 record created excitement for Eagles fans (who had become used to lackluster seasons), it wasn’t good enough to get into the NIT or CBI tournament and their season ended.

Catching up with Coach Bret Vandergard after the Eagles final game, he expressed appreciation for how his players had developed and optimism for the upcoming year. “All of our players will be returning next year. Their experience and improvement this year definitely gives us a leg up next year,” said Vandergard.

In response to what he felt were the strengths of his team, Vandergard went on to say, “We have six interior players who I can bring into games and get good solid play offensively, on the boards, and defensively. We got some good shooting from our perimeter players. Now we just have to get them to become more aggressive on the offensive end of the court. While we may not have the natural talent of some players on other teams, we certainly have the heart.”

When asked what he felt were weaknesses, Vandergard offered, “Turnovers were a big problem for us this season, so that’s an area we need to work on next year. And since many of our players were inexperienced, we got called for some careless fouls, but I think the guys will cut down on those mistakes next year. Overall our defense was not as strong as what I would like, but we had some good games defensively, so I know the guys can play it. They just need to focus more on it.”

Since the team finished in 2nd place in the Big Sky, does Vandergard anticipate a championship next year? He replied, “There are too many uncertainties and unknowns to know how we will do. Other teams have also developed this year and could challenge for supremacy. But I’m happy with the players we have and look forward to working with them next year.”

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Jack Cooper, Barber:

 

EWU basketball was a main topic of discussion this year in my shop. Early in the season, many of my customers were doubting the wisdom of hiring an inexperienced coach, then some got down on him after all the bad media publicity. But their attitudes changed with the team began winning regularly and moving up in the Big Sky standings. Coach V and many of his players are also my customers, so that has helped my business by drawing in other people as well. And I was really surprised and happy when Coach V invited me to the team BBQ party a few weeks before the end of the season. The guy is a prince of a fellow. Not only that, he has a great looking haircut.

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NCAA Tournament Selection Show:

 

#1 Seeds: Missouri, Michigan, North Carolina, UCLA.

North Dakota is the #12 seed in the Boise Regional and will play #5 seed Oklahoma.

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Don Watson, player:

 

DW: Hey, Coach, can I have a moment of your time?

BV: Sure Don, come on into my office. What’s up?

DW: Well it’s this way. I accepted redshirting this year because I felt that it would allow me to remain a freshman for eligibility while giving me an opportunity to become a starter next year. But seeing how Joe and Delawn improved this year and how you began to depend upon them at the 3, it looks like I will not get much playing time this coming season. I know that college ball will be my last hurrah in basketball, so I want to start and get as much playing time as possible. I just don’t think that’s going to happen here, Coach. So, I want permission to transfer. 

BV: This is a real surprise, Don. I would like to have you back next year and no one’s been locked in as a starter next year. You got to know our system this year and you might get more playing time than you expect. And you know, if you transfer, you will have to sit out a year.

DW: Yeah, maybe, but I’m from Western Washington. My folks and other family members and friends live in or near Renton. I’d like to transfer to the University of Puget Sound. Since it’s located in Tacoma, my family can come to the games. Also it’s Division III, so I can avoid having to sit out, play next year, and because of the difference in level of play, I think I will start for them right away and for my entire 4 years of eligibility.

BV: Again Don, I’d really like you to stick with us. But if this is really something you’ve set your mind to, I won’t stand in your way. I tend to agree with you that you will get a lot of time on the court for the Loggers. But I’d suggest you think this over for a few days, maybe talk it over with the assistant coaches and Swede. I think they all will have some valuable input for you. You have my permission to talk with the people at Puget Sound also.

DW: OK, Coach. I appreciate you agreeing to allow me to do this. I will talk with those guys and let you know quickly, since I know you will need to fill my scholarship and there’s not much time left to do that.

TWO DAYS LATER:

DW: Coach, it’s been good being here and getting to know you and the guys here, but I really want to start right away. So I’ve made my decision to transfer to the University of Puget Sound.

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Jamal Smith, 1st Asst Coach (recruiting):

 

Coach V immediately talked with me about the possible need tah try tah recruit a player quickly. We went through the list of players we've talked with an' scouted. We identified several tah focus upon. As soon as Don Watson confirmed he was transferrin', I was on the phone an' then on the road tah try tah get the best player I could land. It’s a big challenge but an excitin' one. We don’t have much money left in the recruitin' budget, so we’re going tah have tah get lucky.

I immediately find that a couple of players who we had on our radar (who were highly rated) feel Washington is too far from the Midwest where their families are. A good high school SF likes us but he’s had attitude problems. Coach V doesn’t rule him out, but wants me tah look at others.

Another high school SF, Hunter Battles, isn’t quite as highly rated, but is a hard worker with some strong attributes. The only problem is that he’s from Arkansas an' has said that playin' close tah home is very important tah him. I’m just hopin' that he realizes that his opportunities for bein' picked up by a Division I team this late aren’t that great.

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Tournament Champions:

 

NCAA Championship: UCLA-76, Missouri-61 (UCLA goes 16-0 in the Pac-12 and 40-1 for the entire season)

NIT Championship: Oregon-86, George Mason -71

CBI Championship: Providence-65, Loyola Marymount-61

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Torbern “Swede” Olaffson, Athletic Director:

 

With the season over, I sit down with Bret Vandergard. I congratulate him on meeting my goals of winning at least 10 games and finishing in the top 3 of the Big Sky. 

We discuss the upcoming year. It looks like they’re having difficulty filling the scholarship that opened late due to Don Watson’s departure.

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Jamal Smith, 1st Asst Coach (recruiting):

 

Hunter Battles remains luke warm an' unwillin' tah commit even though we offer him a scholarship. Finally, Coach V withdraws the offer an' we offer it tah the higher-rated recruit who had some attitude problems. Coach V says he’s willin' tah work on resolving that.

Right after the scholarship is offered, it is accepted. Our new (and only) recruit is:

SF Ervin Smith, 6-8 HS Sr, Gleason, TN, 2.4 GPA, 980 SAT. Averaged 16.5 ppg, 2.3 apg, 5.2 rpg, 1.7 spg, and 1.7 bpg. He’s a good scorer with good outside an' inside shootin' skills. He’s a very good defender an' is strong athletically. He needs tah improve his reboundin'. Rated #90 in the nation. I’m really hopin' he fits in with the rest of the team.

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Larry Montgomery, 2nd asst coach:

 

3rd assistant coach Kevin Gebbers and I were both on 1 year contracts. Coach V decided not to renew Kevin’s contract.

Bret offered me an extension, but I told him I wanted to try to go after a head coaching job and left at the end of the season to purse that. Big mistake on my part. Although I got a few interviews, others were hired. By the time my moment of failure was complete, Bret had already hired a 2nd assistant, 51 yr old Nathaniel Austin who will be in charge of player development.

When Bret found out that no one had offered me a head coaching job, he called me and said he’d like me back. Although the only position that was available was 3rd assistant, I’d have a 5-year contract and be paid the same amount I was previously earning. With my tail between my legs, I gladly accepted. I will continue to be responsible for scouting.

Coach V tried to convince the board of directors for the college to upgrade our facilities, but unfortunately they were unwilling to spend the money.
So with all scholarships filled and a new assistant coach, we finished the 2013-2014 campaign and moved on to a new season.

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Nancy Parker, Athletic Department Secretary:

 

I’m concerned about Bret Vandergard seeing Christine Rozniak. Nothing good can come from that woman. I’ve heard plenty of rumors about her, seen her machinations on the city council, and know she grinds men up quicker than a Cuisinart grinds peaches to make a smoothie. 

I’ve made a few side comments from time to time to Bret about him needing a good woman (I’m sure he heard my inflection on the word “good”). He always just smiles and then calls me “Aunt Nancy”.

A couple months ago I introduced a friend of mine, Jan Fredericks, to Bret Vandergard. Jan is a sweetheart. She was visiting me in the office one day when Bret walked through, so I finagled for both of them to accompany me to Starbucks (yes, there’s even a Starbucks in Cheney). I thought it went well, but Bret never followed up.

After the basketball season finished, I hosted a party at my house for the athletic department. I invited Jan to attend and again got her and Bret together. Unlike Christine, Jan is a little younger than Bret and much, much more natural. Jan was at her effervescent best. They spent time together and were laughing a lot. I was SURE this was going somewhere. But, NOOOOO. He eventually wandered off to talk with the guys and hasn’t called Jan since the party. “Aunt Nancy” may have to be, uhhh, more direct.

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Yeah, who's Bret Vandergard and what's he done for you lately?

 

(Copied from a posting by JMD in the Wolverine Studios Forums)

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From the minds of many:

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JMD viewpost.gif
Yeah, who's Bret Vandergard and what's he done for you lately?

Don Watson--He never realized my real abilities and so I headed for happier hunting grounds at the University of Puget Sound. 

Jack Cooper--He's increased the number of customers who come to my barber shop and he tips well. 

Swede Olaffson--He made me look dumb for 2 months early in the season and smart the last 2 months of the season (and in between...meh).

Bud Springfield--He won't let me give top-flight recruits new Ford automobiles. confused.gif 

Jamal Smith--He's got me flyin' all over the country tah talk tah coaches an' recruits an' eatin' some fiiiiine regional foods. 

Michael Jackson--He's taken my son out of the starting lineup and I'm pissed. mad.gif 

Kevin Gebbers--He didn't keep me on as 3rd assistant coach so now I have to use food stamps.......oh wait a minute.......he wasn't paying me enough when I USED TO BE 3rd assistant and I was on food stamps. 

Christine Rozniak--Wouldn't YOU like to know! wink.gif 

PointGuard--He's a diabolical SOB who causes me to be on the computer probably far longer than I should be. eek.gif

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Larry Montgomery, 3rd asst coach:

 

We get tutors for 4 players: Joseph Palmer, Joe Blackwell, Shawn Jackson, and our new recruit, Ervin Smith. While we think the first three probably wouldn’t have dropped below a 2.0, all three are important to us and so there’s no use taking a chance. With respect to Ervin Smith, we just want to get him off to a good start.

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Jamal Smith, 1st Asst Coach:

 

Allllll-riiiiightttttt. We have 4 scholarships tah fill this season. In year #2, my job will have significance throughout the season. We’d like tah pick up 2 guards an’ 2 big men. Coach V an’ I have mapped out the followin’ strategy: 

We will focus on Washington state an’ Western regional players.

We will purchase the basic edition of the Western Report an’ the basic edition of the National Report.

We’ll attend the Las Vegas Revue.

Now it’s up to me tah beat the bushes an’ drum up interest.

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Nancy Parker, Athletic Department Secretary:

 

I got two tickets to Les Miserables that is playing in Spokane and invite Jan Fredericks to accompany me. Then a day before the show, I call Bret up and tell him I purchased the two tickets but now can’t go with Jan because a member of the family is ill and I need to drive over to Seattle. I tell him Jan is using the other ticket and ask if he’d accompany her since I don’t want her to have to go alone and also don’t want to see the ticket go to waste. Bret’s a good guy, and as I was sure he would do, agrees.

Bret and Jan went to dinner before the show. Jan said they had a good time. But during the intermission of the show, Christine Rozniak, came up to the two of them in the lobby. She seemed surprised to see Bret there and more surprised to see him with Jan. Christine said most of her real estate office was at the performance. She sidled up between Jan and Bret and talked throughout the intermission, making what Jan called a couple catty remarks about Jan.

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Torbern “Swede” Olaffson, Athletic Director:

 

I had a difficult time scheduling teams to play in our gym. Therefore our team will play 7 of their 11 pre-conference games on the road again this year. But to offset this disadvantage, I didn’t schedule any powerhouses for our pre-conference schedule this year. We need to put some wins on the board this season. And most of the teams are of somewhat equivalent strength to our opponents in the Big Sky, so pre-conference play should ready us for that test as well.

@ Belmont
@ Northwestern St.
@ Cleveland St.
@ Utah Valley St.
@ Fairfield
LOUISIANA TECH
FORDHAM
OLD DOMINION
@ UL Lafayette
LONG BEACH ST.
@ Furman

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Jamal Smith, 1st Asst Coach:

 

I love this recruitin’ gig. Recruitin’ for a low-prestige program isn’t easy, but the challenge is fun. In September we sign one player each of the last 3 weeks:

PF Byron Crawford, 6-7 HS Sr., Boise, ID, 3.0 GPA. Last season he averaged 19.1 ppg, 1.7 apg, 7.3 rpg, 1.5 sgp, and 3.0 bpg. He’s got a sweet outside shot and is an excellent scorer. He’s a strong rebounder and shot blocker. Ranked #62 in the nation.

PG Darryl Bailey, 6-1 JC So., Pe Ell, WA, 2.7 GPA. Last season he averaged 12.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.6 rpg, 2.5 spg, and 0.0 bpg. Excellent passing and ball handling skills and a great outside shot. Strong athleticism. Tremendous work ethic. Rated #559 in the nation.

SG Danya Lawson, 6-4 HS Sr., Battle Ground, WA, 2.8 GPA. Last season he averaged 14.4 ppg, 1.9 apg, 2.8 rpg, 1.6 spg, and 0.7 bpg. Excellent outside shot, very good inside shooter, and deadly at the free throw line. Very good scorer with strong ball handling skills. Has had some attitude problems and needs to work harder. Rated #471 in the nation.

We weren’t able to get a commitment for our final available scholarship, but I'll work on developing interest to get our guy in the spring.

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Nathaniel Austin, 2nd Asst Coach (player development):

 

Hey, I’m the new guy on the staff this year. We just kicked off practice. I’ve got an open mind about the entire team, so all the starting positions are up for grabs.

The Big Sky media poll has us pegged for 3rd place this year.

During practice, Terence Hillier and Delawn West got into an argument a couple times that caused their relationship with the team to suffer. Coach V talked with them about it. Terence agreed to try harder to not cause problems, but Delawn was adamant that it was not his fault. I think this will all settle out once we start playing games.

We decide to redshirt sophomore SG Will Davis to allow him to develop his game more rather than having him sit on the bench most of the season.

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Nancy Parker, Athletic Department Secretary:

 

It seems as though Christine Rozniak didn’t take kindly to Jan being with Bret Vandergard at the Les Miserables performance. Christine is part of a group that has purchased the apartment house where Jan lives and is turning it into a condo. Jan says she doesn’t have the money to purchase her unit, so will likely have to move.

I’m certain this was all contrived by Christine as a way of getting back at Jan and creating a hassle for her. Christine Rozniak is a snake. I just can’t understand why Bret refuses to see that.

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Nathaniel Austin, 2nd Asst Coach:

 

I heard that no one really stood out as the go-to guy last year. Well…..same players this year, same problem. In fact, there really is no one that stands out as a definite starter, maybe other than Joseph Palmer at center. And even he may be challenged eventually for that starting spot. There are two (or more) guys challenging to be starters for each of the other four positions. So I expect we will just have to experiment throughout much of the pre-conference schedule to see who can become solid starters. All-in-all this would be a good situations…IF the players had more talent. But while they are all reasonably good players, none are STRONG players who can be counted upon to perform well each and every game. They all have some skill strengths but also some big holes in their games. 

But, it’s a challenge and one that I bought into when I agreed to come to EWU. It’s just that I thought I’d be able to mold this group into consistent winners this year and now I’m not so sure. Hopefully though, Coach V and Jamal can recruit some stronger players to allow us to improve in the future.
So, for game #1, who’s going to start?

PGTim Dove (Coach V isn’t pleased that he hasn’t developed more and he’s still very inconsistent. Robbie Taflinger, and to a lesser degree Shawn Jackson and Brian Robisch, are presently targeted as backups but could potentially take over at this position.)

SGRobbie Taflinger (He is a challenger to start at PG, but he’s been shooting well enough so we’ll give him a go at SG. Last year’s starter, Shawn Jackson seems to inexplicably have regressed, but he as well as Brian Robisch are likely to get their chance as starters should Taflinger not fill the bill at SG or be needed at PG. Delawn West is likely to come in at SG at times also. DCoach V told me to not be surprised if Shawn’s father comes in screaming about his son’s demotion.)

SFDelawn West (He and last year’s primary starter at SF, Joe Blackwell, are pretty evenly rated for us, but Delawn has shown flashes of prodigious scoring ability. But that’s been inconsistent…at times he’s aggressive offensively and then there are times when he’s passive. Joe will likely get a chance to re-assert himself at SF. Travis Dawson can play well at times, but is not quite as strong as Delawn and Joe. Ervin Smith, our new guy, has a lot of rough edges and is a work in progress. I’m hoping we get some big leads so Ervin can play a mop up role and gain some game experience.)

PF—This is a position where we have 4 guys challenging. Right now Terence Hillier has the lead and has edged out Cory Davis, last year’s starter. But Cory, as well as Brian Dearman(Coach V says he’s improved quite a bit since last year) and Odie Joseph (Coach V feels Odie’s role may be diminished this year), are fighting to ultimately win the starting position at PF.)

C—As I mentioned, Joseph Palmer remains in control for the starting role, but he’s shown a propensity to foul during our scrimmages and hasn’t adjusted even though we’ve been working with him on this. Michael Taylor continues to be able to fill in adequately and has an outside opportunity to star. And Cory Davis also could figure into the mix as a starter at this position as well as at PF.)

So it’s like a mixed vegetable dish…never know which vegetable to eat first. And yes, if you think we look confused, we are. We’ll play with a long bench and keep fresh legs on the floor since we can throw must about anybody out there without any significant downturn in play. Plus I think we will see different people frequently take the lead for us on different nights.

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Larry Montgomery, 3rd asst coach:

 

Game #1, Nov. 16, 2014: Eastern Washington Eagles (0-0) at Belmont Bruins (0-1)

Both teams started off slowly and had a tough time dropping the ball through the hoop. But we warmed up and midway through the first half we opened an 18-12 lead. Defensively we gave the Bruins fits and we opened a 10 point lead. But the Bruins hit some shots in the last few minutes of the half to trim our lead at the break to 32-28. For the half, we hit 50% of our shots and Belmont hit 37% of their FG attempts. We held an 18-11 rebounding advantage but had an 8-5 turnover deficit. Cory Davis led our scoring with 8 points.

We couldn’t buy a bucket early in the 2nd half and fell behind 41-34. The refs then took control of the game and began calling the game tightly on both ends of the court. With both teams parading to the foul line, it was difficult for us to catch up but with 4:12 minutes to play we trailed by a 60-59 score. Delawn West then canned a jumper with 3:48 to go to put us ahead 61-60. With just under a minute to play, West’s 3-pointer rimmed out, but Cory Davis grabbed the rebound and stuffed it in to give us a 6 point lead. That was enough to seal an opening game victory for us. Our main advantage in the game our domination of the boards (30-20) which led to a 30-14 advantage for us on points in the paint.

Final Score: Eastern Washington (1-0)—74, Belmont (0-2)—66.

Leading players for Eastern Washington: C Joseph Palmer-12 pts, 13 reb, 1 assist, 1 steal; SG Shawn Jackson-11 pts, 1 reb, 4 assists, 1 steal; SF Joe Blackwell-10 pts, 2 reb, 3 steals; PF Cory Davis-12 pts, 3 reb, 2 steals; PG Tim Dove-12 pts, 1 reb, 1 assist; C Michael Taylor-6 pts, 4 reb, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block.

Player of the Game: C Joseph Palmer-12 pts, 13 reb, 1 assist, 1 steal (Great Double-Double).

Looking at the stats, who showed up to play? It was the starting lineup from last season (all of whom scored in double figures).

I was happy that the team paid attention to my scouting report to prevent any of the Belmont Bruins players from having a break out game.

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Potato-Pickin’-Paul, “Eagle Flight” blog: 

 

Game #2, Nov. 19, 2014: Eastern Washington Eagles (1-0) at Northwestern State Demons (1-1)

 

I could swear I could hear the EWU Eagles basketball team singing the following song as they boarded the plane to take on the Northwestern State Demons in Natchitoches, Louisiana:

It's a long way to Natchitoches,
It's a long way to go,
It's a long way to Natchitoches,
To the next road game and foe!
Goodbye little Cheney! Farewell sweet Reese Court!
It's a long, long way to Natchitoches,
But the Demons are there!


The entire starting unit from last year started tonight for the Eagles. The coaching staff apparently liked what they saw from those five in the opening game of the season. Those five fizzled early, falling behind 7-0, but Vandergard stuck with them and they rallied to cut the Demons’ lead to 9-7 at the 15:10 mark. At that point Joseph Palmer picked up his 2nd foul and subs were brought into the game. The Eagles took an 11-10 lead with 14 minutes left in the half. The game remained very close until very late in the half when the Demons built a 38-31 halftime lead. Cory Davis led the Eagles’ scoring with 12 points.

The Eagles shooting was ice-cold at the beginning of the 2nd half and after 4 minutes they trailed 45-31. EWU never solved their shooting problems in the 2nd half. When a team hits just 38% of their shots while their opponents toss in 58% of their FG attempts, it’s going to be a long night…and for the Eagles, the night was extremely lengthy. The one area of the game the Eagles excelled in was on boards where they held a 31-24 advantage. 

Final Score: Northwestern State (2-1)—73, Eastern Washington (1-1)—55.

Leading players for Eastern Washington: PF/C Cory Davis-16 pts, 2 reb, 1 assist; PF Delawn West-10 pts, 6 reb.

Player of the Game: Northwestern State’s C Steve Varley-23 pts, 5 reb, 1 assist, 1 steal.

PF Terence Hiller injured his shoulder and will miss the next game.

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Jamal Smith, 1st Asst Coach:

 

All three of our recruits signed letters of intent on November 19. So just one more available scholarship to offer. We’re continuing to work hard to build interest in other high school and JC players with the hope of signing a top-flight big man or shooting guard this spring.

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