The Paw Print
On March 19, athletic director and former men’s basketball coach Larry Mortensen chose Louis Wilson as his next head coach, replacing Mark Murdock, who won a combined 12 games in his last two seasons as coach of the Grizzlies.
Wilson, an intense presence who is heard before he is seen, previously served as the associate head coach at Division I California State University-Northridge, and his 18 years in coaching include stops at Idaho State University, Southern Utah University, and Anchorage, Alaska’s East High School as well.
To highlight one change that fans will see this year would be an injustice to the numerous other big changes that have occurred in Wilson’s first eight months on the job.
For starters, there are a large number of new faces associated with the program. There are seven returning players from last year’s squad, including fifth-year senior forward Seth Heinbaugh and junior guard Robby Hanzlik, who averaged 14.5 points in his first season as a Grizzly after transferring from Division I Maine, in addition to the nine junior college transfers Wilson recruited to the program.
Two of those transfers, junior swingman Shayar Lee and junior guard Davin Anderson have experience at the Division I level at Northern Arizona and Chicago State, respectively.
Wilson has created a junior varsity team as well.
“In all, we have 17 new players between the two teams, but the junior varsity team is going to provide a number of benefits for our program,” said Wilson. “If the varsity squad has a rash of injuries, we have players than can come up and replace them. Our JV team only plays local junior colleges, and will hopefully serve as a recruiting tool for our school and our program. It affords SLV kids the chance to pursue their passion academically while still being involved in the game, and will ultimately grow ASC’s enrollment. It’s a net positive for sure.”
Wilson has also brought a new and legendary assistant coaching staff with him.
“Ryan Dodd worked with me at Cal State Northridge, and he’s my workhorse. He runs the daily operations of the program,” said Wilson. “And Coach [Chuck] White is a legendary coach at the high school level. His record and experience really speak for themselves.”
White won 921 career games and 18 state titles in 45 years as a high school coach, and won his last state title in March before joining his former player and former assistant coach with the Grizzlies.
Continued Wilson, “He taught me the game in sixth grade, and he’s the reason I am who I am in this profession. He’s the only father figure I’ve ever known, and he imprinted the love of this game on my heart. He’s been around basketball for so long, I feel like having him on the sideline with me is like taking your tutor to the test.”
White will help instill pressure defense and transition offense into the players.
The Grizzlies struggled in transition defense during Murdock’s tenure, and the system Wilson is teaching preaches the pressure defense that White has been so successful with as a coach.
“We want to pressure and attack. If you don’t guard, you don’t live in basketball,” said Wilson. “We didn’t defend at a high enough level in our exhibition games, and we lost both of them.”
When asked what his strategy was for when he wants his players to “pressure and attack,” Wilson responded with a very calm “When they get up in the morning.”
“We practice early in the morning, and I want them to develop that mindset early and to carry it with them all the time.”
“We’re preaching being smart within the system. It will be an adjustment. The guys are still pretty new to each other, and it’s going to take some time to become a team. But we’ll get there.”
The Grizzlies were picked ninth in the RMAC preseason coaches’ poll.
When asked what his expectations for the season are, Wilson said, “That’s the 64 million dollar question. We’ll be good. I don’t know when we’ll be good, but I think we will be good eventually. This season will definitely be an adjustment, but I’m excited for it.”
Wilson had strong praise for both Osborn and junior college transfer Rayland Robinson Jr. “I liked what I saw from them in the exhibition, and I’m excited to see their continued development as the season progresses, as I am with our team in general. I’m just excited to get the season started.”
Undoubtedly, this year’s Grizzlies won’t be like the Grizzlies of the past few seasons. The Grizzlies opened their season and the Louis Wilson coaching era with an 89-77 victory on the road over the Northern New Mexico College Eagles.
The high pressure defense that Wilson has been working to install forced the Eagles into 26 turnovers, and the Grizzlies had 17 steals, the most for an ASC squad in nearly 14 years.