Sloan thrives doing double duty for Bears
Splash Sports Column
Nearly 20 years ago, the late Dave Holmes and I were sitting in Albi Stadium, watching Central Valley in the state football playoffs.
Holmes had begun as a high school coach, moved on to college where he took Eastern Washington University to the NAIA national championship game and had a successful stint at the University of Hawaii before "island fever" hastened his return to the mainland and Spokane Valley.
Holmes wound down his football coaching career where it started, in high school at University. He knew football.
Holmes was impressed with Rick Sloan's play calling as offensive coordinator under Rick Giampietri in that playoff game. He mentioned in casual conversation that Sloan had a great offensive mind who should be a head football coach.
Sloan and I were talking basketball last week following the Bears' unbeaten start. With two second-place state finishes behind him, I jokingly called him a genius.
"That's using the term loosely," he kiddingly counter-punched. "This is what I do. I coach, and I don't think there's any secret to it. The better the kids you have, the better coach you become."
I guided the conversation to a question that had lurked in the back of my mind for some time. Why did he become a basketball coach instead of a football coach?
"I remember when I was young, I really wanted to become a head coach (some day),"
Sloan said. "I love both sports and said whatever opportunity comes open first is what I'm going for. The first opportunity was basketball, and the rest is history."
Giampietri, Sloan continued, has allowed him to "get my football fix. It's the best of both worlds for me."
I had followed Sloan as a standout football quarterback at CV, ending third at the time in career passing. He played quarterback collegiately and even got a brief look in the NFL. He was equally as good in basketball, the Bears' top scorer and rebounder in the GSL before a blown knee ended both his and CV's postseason hopes.
The one thing that struck my wife and me when I was covering Valley sports was his maturity. Sloan came to his games impeccably dressed and never failed to stop by for a friendly chat either before or after a game.
Sloan, after a brief turn as a salesman, returned to his alma mater, became an assistant with Giampietri's program that produced a state title in 1997, and ultimately took on the Bears head basketball coaching job.
He has coached three top-four state finishers, including the two finalists in 2006 and last year.
Covering the state tournament for The Spokesman-Review, I wrote of the 2006 team: "Some observers questioned whether Central Valley belonged in the semifinals of the State 4A tournament, pointing out they were undersized, lacked the talent of higher profile players and that most of all their style of play was boring.
"The Spokane Valley's Little Engine That Could wrote the most amazing story in this week's tourney."
They were classic overachievers whose resolve carried the day.
Last year's group was made up of football players, athletic enough to reach the state quarterfinals and parlay that athleticism and camaraderie into a state basketball title bid.
That alone says something about Sloan as a coach. He may not be a genius, but how many others at the Class 4A level can boast they were both offensive coordinator for a state football titlist and head coach of two basketball finalists?
"I like doing what I'm doing," the double-duty Sloan said.
That's what matters most.
Mike Vlahovich has covered Central Valley High School athletics for more than 40 years. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.