With the winter sports season beginning last Monday, the Cottage Grove basketball teams welcomed in a pair of fresh faces at the head coaching positions. Steve Eastburn will be leading the girls side while Seth Hutchison takes over the boys team.
Eastburn has been coaching as an assistant or head coach since 1996 with stops at South Eugene, Marist and Crow along the way. He will be taking over a team that went 9-1 in league last season and is returning the bulk of their production. The Lions will have their work cut out for them this season in league that features last year’s 4A state champion (Marshfield) and 5A state champion (Marist).
A former basketball manager at Oregon State, assistant at Marist and JV coach at Pleasant Hill, Hutchison will be calling the shots as the head coach for the first time this season. The CGHS class of 2007 graduate is excited to see where this team can go. Last year the Lions finished 16-8, lost in a play-in game and graduated eight seniors – of the 12 players on the roster – including four starters.
Hutchison and Eastburn sat down (well, Eastburn stood) with The Sentinel last week about their feelings on the upcoming season. Below are interviews that have been edited for clarity and length.
The season begins for both teams at home against North Bend on November 29.
Hutchison's return to Cottage Grove
CG Sentinel: What are the emotions entering the new season?
Seth Hutchison: I’m excited. I’m super excited for this opportunity. I’m ready to be a mentor for these kids and try to teach positive characteristics like I’ve talked to you about before you know, on and off the court. Teach them how to be young men. And I’m really excited to just to dive into it. Start to create the culture that I want to create and instill in these kids so I’m excited.
CGS: What head coaches have especially influenced you and how you see the game?
SH: There’s a lot. There’s a lot that I’ve worked one-on-one with. Going back to my days here at Cottage Grove, learned a lot of the x’s and o’s from Bart Pollard at Marist. This last stint at Pleasant Hill I learned how to just create a positive culture with the kids. Create that relationship with the kids. And I’ve kind of drawn from both of them.
And then all the guys at the higher level, the college coaches. (Duke’s) Mike Krzyzewski and all of them. They really know how to teach the game and it’s funny when you listen and read about them, they’re saying the same stuff that I’m going to say but you know, they just do it simple. Just drawing from all different kind of different people. Different philosophies and trying to create my own philosophy and what I like. See what works, what doesn’t work, what you like from this person, what you don’t like from this person. Kind of creating your own. It’s kind of like teaching, you know? It’s the same kind of way. When I was doing my student teaching you pull from them, you leave what you don’t like. You pull from them and leave what you don’t like. Kind of create your own way, your own path.
CGS: What will it be like coaching against your former coach in Pollard?
SH: Oh it's going to be really crazy. It’s going to be really weird. And it’s not just him, it’s (CGHS teacher and Elmira coach) Nick Garman as well. He was my varsity coach my junior year. I really look up to both of them. Now it’s going to be different standing opposite of them. You know, on the other side of the court. So I’m excited. I’ve circled those ones. Those are big. But you know, they’re great guys and once we step on the court we still have that friendship but we have that competitive nature against each other. It will be exciting.
That’s four games against people I looked up to. And they really taught me the game of basketball the right way. They instilled this passion to coach in me and so it started with them and now I get to compete against them. And I get these kids to compete against them. So it will be fun.
CGS: Earlier this year when we talked, the team was still new to you. Since then, how have you prepared for this group?
SH: I’ve done a lot of my homework. I’ve been watching a lot of film from last year. That’s going to be big going into it. The coaches that I have on staff, they’ve filled me in on what I have and what was it like last year so I’m going to rely on them heavily. We’ve had some open gyms where we’ve had them come in and I’ve got to sit back and just watch them without physically coaching them or telling them verbally what to do. Just watch them and see how they are on the court without me really telling them what to do.
From what I see, they’re very hard-working, very respectful kids. And those are big. That’s what I want to see. We’ve seen a lot of dedication. We’ve had 29 kids come out for open gyms which is a lot right now. Football just ending which I understand so I’m excited to get everybody out there starting on Monday. But from what I’ve seen right now, all great things. What I’ve seen from last year, a lot of good foundation to build on. So I’m excited for what I’ve seen so far.
CGS: What will that first day of practice mean to you when you are not a player or assistant but now the head coach?
SH: That’s going to mean a lot to me. Stepping between those lines as not a player but as a coach is going to mean a lot. I take it very seriously. We’re going to get down to work, it’s going to be business. You step in between those lines it’s going to be all-business. There’s going to be a lot of emotion around it. But I’m just ready to get in there and start teaching. Start teaching not just basketball but good positive characteristics and it will be challenging. They’re going to see some different stuff, it’s going to be different then what they’ve seen, I’m sure. We’re going to do a lot of evaluating. That’s going to be the biggest thing and not just from me. I’m going to have all my coaches evaluate these players through drills and basketball and conditioning and fitness. It will be real. It’s going to be a surreal experience.
CGS: What do you want the product on the court to look like?
SH: What I envision with this team is we’re going to be very hardworking. I’m going to ask a lot of them, give everything they’ve got, don’t be afraid to fail. That’s going to be the biggest thing. We’re going to be very detail oriented so I’m not just going to teach the broad scheme of things but I’m going to really break stuff down into fine detail. And I think, honestly, that makes the difference between a good team and a great team is the details, the fine details.
Yeah everybody knows how to rebound the basketball but how do you actually rebound the basketball with footwork and technique and so it’s going to be demanding. I’m going to be very demanding of these kids, I’m going to have high-expectations, I’m going to hold them accountable. I’m going to ask them to be very selfless. That’s going to be very, very big. You know, buy into the team, believe in something bigger than just yourself. So I think our foundation is going to be off of teamwork, very detail oriented, coachable.
And then just effort. Just flat out effort because that’s something that you can control every single day is effort. You can’t control if you make a shot every single time but you can control how hard you go. And I think if we push those boundaries and continue to push those boundaries, they could be great. We could be great.
CGS: Regardless of wins and losses, will a successful season look like to you this year?
SH: I haven’t put, like you said, the wins and losses, I’m not really thinking about that. What I’m really thinking about is every single time these kids step onto the court they take away one thing that they can improve on. And I think if you do that, the wins and losses are going to take care of themselves.
So if you step on and you compete and if you have a purpose when you leave that – when you leave the lines, there’s something that I can work on. If every single one of these kids has that mentality, then I think we as a program are just going to continue to elevate. And that’s what I’m really looking for out of these kids: taking something away and then fixing it the next time. Whether that’s positive or negative, taking something away and then I think the wins and losses are going to take care of themselves. So that’s what I’m really looking forward to, just taking something away.
I’m really excited, I know I’ve said that word a lot but it’s exciting to be able to work with this group. From what I’ve learned so far from them, I’m ready to kind of create the culture of family, togetherness and really strive for something as a group.
CGS: Last year’s head coach Nick Finley was well-liked by players and the community and the team was competitive. How do you walk in and replace that?
SH: I think one of the things that I have going for myself is that I grew up here, I was born here. And I think I’m going to gain a lot of support from just that. I’m a Grover, I know what it’s like to be a Grover. We’re in Bohemia Elementary School right now and this is where I went to school. You know and I went to Lincoln Middle School and I went to the high school. I’m excited not just at the high school level but supporting the middle school level, too. I mean, that’s big. I want to be involved at the middle school as much as possible and I want them to be involved with the high school as much as possible and I’ve already worked with the athletic director at the middle school and met with the coaches down there and told them kind of my philosophy and what I’m looking for from them. Start to create fundamentals.
I think just being born and raised here, I think that’s huge. And I have that going for me which is going to bring a lot of support. But you know, I’m excited. But we need everybody. We need to pack the gym, we need to have that home court advantage. We need support for these kids and I want them to come out and see how hard they work. And see how much effort they are putting in, too. I’m excited.
Eastburn continues coaching career
Cottage Grove Sentinel: What is the mood heading into the season?
Steve Eastburn: I think excitement. Whenever there’s change there is a new outlook so they’re excited. So we’ll see how long that lasts, you know, being teenagers. But hopefully it just builds and builds and builds. They got a lot of talent here. A lot of talent. A lot of returning talent and they have experience now so I’m really lucky to step into this position now because it’s already been formed.
CGS: Is there pressure to perform well with the talent of this team?
SE: No. So the expectations are the same: to be the same as last year or even exceed that. But as far as pressure, there’s never any pressure because it’s always about the experience. You don’t really control a lot of that so you just make it a great experience for the kids and what happens, happens.
CGS: How do you prepare for a new team?
SE: We had summer basketball so I was lucky enough to step in at the end of the school year so we were able to do summer basketball and evaluate the kids. Kind of got them initiated in some of the stuff I do and how I do it so we’re not starting from square one, we’re actually, we’ve got a little bit of a head-start. Not a lot but they’ve now been around me and I’ve been around them so we know personalities and you know like to evaluate their skill level and so now put it all together in the next three weeks before we play our first game and nothing out of the ordinary really. Nothing out of the ordinary, come in, work on defense, skills. Skills are going to be huge. Defense and tons of fundamental skills.
CGS: Is that the foundation of the teams you coach?
SE: Absolutely. If you don’t have fundamental skills, you can’t do anything else. So defense you don’t need the basketball but it’s really the hardest thing to teach because I do it on defensive principles so I teach them all my principles so we can play whatever defense we want to – man, zone, press, whatever – but to do the other thing on offense you have to have skills. If you don’t have the skills, it doesn’t matter what offense you’re running, what shots you’re taking. Because if you can’t dribble the ball to the basket, if you can’t shoot the ball, if you can’t pass the ball, what’s the point? So I’m big on fundamental skills and we will be doing a ton of those.
CGS: What was the experience like last year at Crow?
SE: Last year. So that was the first time I’ve ever coached at the 2A level – completely different. So you talk about fundamentals, it was just all fundamentals there. And experiences were just completely different. Boy, we thought we travelled, down to Medford and stuff, but 2A you travel. We go Lost River, we go Butte Falls. They’re just out there in the middle of nowhere. It was a fun experience.
And the thing was, we would get on a bus for a trip to Lost River or Butte Falls and we would leave at 12:30 but first we would have to drop off the elementary students from school on the way out because right out there on Lorraine Highway. So we had to drop all the elementary kids off, which took about an hour, and we’re on the bus that hour. Then we take off on our trip because they were saving money. They don’t have a lot of money out there and they don’t want to hire an extra driver.
CGS: What will you focus on with this team?
SE: It will be just building on those fundamentals. It really will be. We’ve got a really good preseason, we’ve got some tough games and then we’ve got some games that are manageable.
Well – I’m thinking back now, we start with North Bend. We have Banks in there and we go to Banks. But Banks and now I’m drawing a blank. We go to the Seaside tourney again and going to the Stayton tournament over winter break.
And then of course we jump into league and Marshfield is in the league who is state champion from last year and they return everybody. They will be really tough. Saw them this summer, they will be really tough. And of course Marist, who will be tough. They’re always tough. And then the rest of the league is kind of manageable. Junction City lost everybody. Elmira, Siuslaw I hear has really dropped in athletics. And I go back to the 70s with those guys when I was in school. That’s how I remember them, they were such powers in football and everything.
CGS: What does success look like with this group?
SE: Well, I was just telling the kids, we want to get better everyday. If we get better everyday and do the thins we’re supposed to do on the court, everything will take care of itself. Wins and losses really do take care of themselves. I mean, if you have the players and the players are putting in work, wins and losses take care of themselves. You’ll win the games that you should win and you’ll win some games that you probably shouldn’t win against better teams. And then losses will come if you, you know, neglect that work. They always take care of themselves. Kids are out there on the floor, they’re the ones playing, they have ownership in it.
I’m really excited to be able to coach these kids. Going to their volleyball games and soccer games this fall and getting to know people a little bit better but the kids are super.