Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
For a guy who's taking over a basketball team that won one game last season, Jeff Schlecht sounds pretty optimistic.
That may be because the former Ashland High principal who was recently hired to coach the AHS boys is less concerned with wins and losses than he is with establishing a solid foundation.
"We're going to build a culture of support for one another," Schlecht said. "I really want these kids to be positive teammates who understand what it means to have each other's back. "¦The goal is to love the great game of basketball, to play with supreme effort and passion and to learn and to understand that it's a team game."
Schlecht, 62, replaces Larry Kellems, who stepped down in May following his sixth season as the Grizzlies head coach. Ashland High School also announced Saturday that Ashley Hafner has been hired to take over the girls basketball team, filling a vacancy left when Emily Hesse resigned following her third year at the helm.
Haffner, 28, was Hesse's varsity assistant the past two seasons.
Schlecht will have his work cut out for him. The Grizzlies won Southern Sky Conference championships in 2008 and '10 but went 21-28 the next two seasons and were 1-20 in Kellems' final year.
Schlecht, who was a volunteer assistant coach at AHS during the 2011-12 season, knows that it won't be easy but is excited about the opportunity. Case in point: he's already organized a week-long camp for high school-age players and says about 15 to 20 boys have signed up.
"We're going to roll up our sleeves and dig deep this summer," Schlecht said, "and with a lot of hard work we're going to get right back to that competitive swing that we're known for."
Schlecht will also be an assistant coach for the Ashland Pilots American Legion baseball team this summer. His son, former Grizzly standout and current Oregon Tech starter Ethan Schlecht, is the head coach.
The AHS boys basketball team last qualified for the 5A state tournament in 2007 under head coach Royce Miller. Kellems led the Grizzlies to three consecutive playoff appearances between '08 and '10.
"Coach Schlecht is the ultimate shaper of culture and an outstanding leader in every way," AHS athletic director Karl Kemper said. "He most definitely knows the game of basketball and is pouring all of his efforts into getting back into coaching mode. "¦He exudes positive energy and has been a kid magnet when he worked in the district in the past."
Hafner, a health and foods teacher at Ashland High, will take over a program that went 30-40 under Hesse.
Hafner played college basketball at Moorpark College and Southern Oregon University before graduating from SOU in '07.
Her two years as Hesse's assistant have helped shape Hafner as a coach.
"When I think about my goals, at least for this upcoming season, I really want to teach the game of basketball," Hafner said. "I want it to be fun and I want the girls to look forward to coming every day and look forward to learning through basketball and doing it together as a team."
Kemper believes Hafner will be a good fit.
"Coach Hafner connects very well with the kids and has a passion for the game," Kemper said. "She has the perfect balance between tenderness and toughness. She is a competitive person but she keeps things in perspective. She has strong character and is an excellent role model for young people."