Allister chooses not to force Vikings into summer ball
Nobody told Derek Allister that it was going to be easy to replace Tom Orlich.
However, if you don’t eat, sleep and drink basketball 12 months out of the year in South Lake Tahoe, then you’re going to overhear someone badmouthing you in coffee shops and restaurants.
According to the Viking schedule, basketball season doesn’t get under way for another five months, but already the undercurrent of the basketball community believes that the new coach is burying his boys before the season even starts.
By skipping spring ball, summer league and summer tournament play the Vikings already are well behind many of the programs in the Northern Nevada 4A League.
“It’s disappointing to see that happen to a program that has dominated Northern Nevada for the last 20 years,” said STHS alum Travis McCollum, who now plays for Chico State. “I don’t know the new coach, but I don’t think he’s putting forth the effort we used to in the off-season.
“If you don’t play year-round and then expect your kids to come in and try out for a team and have a successful team off a year where you don’t go to any tournaments, I don’t see how they can be competitive in Northern Nevada.”
In all fairness to Allister, Orlich didn’t tender a resignation until after the talent pool dried up. The 25-year coach left the program after the Vikings captured the 1999-2000 zone championship and advanced to the state semifinals. It was well known that just making the postseason was going to be a chore for a while. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise in 2000-2001 that the Vikings suffered their first losing season and missed the playoffs for the first time as members of the Northern Nevada League.
Despite some temporary setbacks, Allister, a former Stephen F. Austin University coach, made the most of his return to high school coaching.
“It was the best year of my life since my second year at Cal,” Allister said. “I had a great time with those kids and teaching English again and living in Tahoe.”
Since a defeat to Carson City in the regular-season finale that kept the Vikings out of the playoffs, Allister hasn’t seen any signs telling him that players want to get better.
“There has to be a willingness and enthusiasm to play, and we don’t always exhibit that willingness and enthusiasm,” Allister said. “I’m not the type of guy who is going to round up guys the night before a tournament and beg them to play. If they want to play, they’ll let me know they want to play. If they don’t want to play, they’ll let me know they way to spend the summer relaxing, and I understand given the pressures of so many sports, whether it’s football, baseball or soccer.”
In short, basketball doesn’t mean as much to the group of upperclassmen going through the program.
“I place a high premium on a willingness to just get down and work and the willingness to be responsible and committed,” Allister said. “It’s not my job to babysit. It’s their job to commit themselves totally to the program.”
Allister’s assessment doesn’t include the program’s underclassmen, who he won’t subject to upper-level tournament play yet. As a result, South Tahoe didn’t have an entry in the South Tahoe Shootout this summer.
“I’m not going to take a bunch of kids that are not ready, eighth- and ninth-graders, and have them play against Bishop O’Dowd and get beat by 100. That does nobody no good,” Allister said. “There are a lot of variables that go into having a group of young men that are committed and want to play something.
“I’m not going to throw anybody in a South Tahoe uniform. When South Tahoe plays we’re going to be well-respected and act right. We’re not going to be a rag-tag outfit that is just playing summer ball because somebody told them they had to.”
Back in the early 1990s former South Tahoe High football coach Tim Jaureguito had trouble finding players willing to totally commit themselves to the sport. Consequently, he had a lot of young men playing both offense and defense because his numbers dwindled to below two dozen. Allister doesn’t want to scare off his players. He also understands that they have lives outside basketball as well.
But just because one group doesn’t want to work in the off-season doesn’t mean that Allister will put away the basketballs at the end of February every year.
“We may have groups who want to play 12 months out of the year. But right now we don’t have an older group that wants to do that night in and night out,” Allister said.
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