First-year head coach David Spirlin says he plans on returning to coach next season, giving the program much-needed stability
The first time I met David Spirlin, the head coach of the Scappoose girls' basketball program, I was caught a little off-guard. It was at a volleyball game, and just about the only thing I remember is that I was a lot smaller than the coach I was about to cover for a season, and I'd better stay on his good side.
A few weeks later, when it came time to delve into Spirlin's story and how exactly the big, plum-suit-wearing, crimson-shoe-donning coach came to be in Scappoose, it turned out I was wrong about my initial impression.
The first thing you'll notice is that Spirlin can't hide his absolute love for basketball. He barks during games, and has a special knack for staring down officials after questionable calls. He wants it to be done right, and done correctly every time. He can see and acknowledge progress, but demands perfection.
And the thing is, his team knows it.
One of the most telling moments and interesting insights into the relationship between Spirlin and the girls' basketball team came early on in the season. They stood around him following practice – more than a head shorter, most of them – and listened while he told about his successes in the basketball world. They'd heard stories about his college days, his past coaching experiences and the trips to the state tournament with teams in the past, and they wanted it.
The older girls, the seniors on this years' team, got the short end of the stick. Spirlin intends to stay around, alleviating the pressure the girls' program has felt in recent years from the high-turnover rate of coaches. He's talked all season long about the value of consistency from year to year, and about how he can't just coach the team with today as the only focus. Tomorrow's team, which is made up of the underclassmen and kids down into the middle school level, is just as important, and what he wants to accomplish is to build the foundation for what nearly all great programs are made of.
If the kids know the system, understand the basics and have the right training by the time they hit the floor on varsity, they'll be unstoppable. It's much more than physical fitness and being able to hit free throws, it's everything that doesn't go on the stat sheet. Team defense, breaking a full-court press, and learning to anticipate your teammates on offense will only show up in one statistic: wins and losses.
It's something that Simon Date, the girls' soccer coach at St. Helens, is trying to build as well. A feeder system, something that prepares the kids ahead of time before they step into the varsity program.
If that's what Spirlin intends to do here in Scappoose, I'm all for it. He laughs that he might not always be a team favorite in practice because of his high standards, but you can tell in an instant the girls respect him for one big reason: what he's doing is obviously working, and he's willing to invest the time to make sure it stays that way.