Auburn Riverside’s boys basketball ream is no rebuilding project for new coach Kevin Olson.
Despite losing a big chunk of the team to graduation – including leading scorer Derek Brown, team leader Drew Wallen and Derek White – Olson said he thinks the Ravens are ready to win now.
“I think this program is in good shape,” he said. “I think we’re right there on the verge. We’re young but very athletic, with good basketball players. And we’ve got good leadership with Mitch, (Wetmore) a four-year varsity player. We’ve got some key players to build of off and some young guys to build with. I think it sets us up for a nice successful run of Riverside basketball.”
And as a program, Auburn Riverside could use a good run.
Last year the program was shaken by the suspension of coach Jason Brown for violating WIAA rules regarding minimum practices required for players to participate in games and limitations on the amount of time a player can play in a jamboree. Despite the loss of Brown – who was replaced by assistant Earl Taylor for the season – the team put together a winning record and made the postseason, losing in district play.
Looking to take the next step forward, however, the administration hired Olson this past spring, banking on the former, longtime Decatur coach’s ability to push a team into the state tourney.
“It was not easy to make that decision (to leave Decatur),” Olson said. “I love Decatur and had great years there and relationships.”
During his 19 years at the school, four as an assistant to Keith Cooper and the past 15 as head coach, Olson led the Gators to the state tourney for the past six years.
“It just felt like it was time for a change, time for something new,” Olson said. “This opportunity looks like a good fit for me,” Olson said. “It’s close to my home, there is some good talent here, and it’s a good school. I’m excited to be here and to try to put something up on the wall and make some history. I want to make something happen and get the kids something to be proud of.”
Olson said he hopes to put his own stamp on the program, on and off the court.
“No disregard to anyone else who has been here, but I’d like to get something up on the board [championship banners] and have some relevance for boys basketball at Auburn Riverside in the big picture,” he said. “There are some good kids here that can get that done.”
“My philosophy, the way my teams play, is defensively make the other teams work to score,” he said. “Contain, contest and rebound are three of our big things. It’s about protection, being in the right spot, and taking charges and helping out. We will press and we will pressure, but not like those Franklin or Lincoln teams. That’s not us, that’s not my style, defensively. A good tough, man-to-man is our base and protecting the half-court.”
Offensively, expect an up-tempo-but-controlled style, he said.
“I like to run, I like to get guys out and run,” Olson said. “But we have structure to what we’re doing in the half-court. We transition with the guys making points out of our offense. I think people who have watched my teams play know we’re going to run sets at the end of the time clock. We’re going to run sets out of timeouts. And we’re going to be organized and try to get our best scorers in places where they can make plays. We’ve been successful at that, and, hopefully, we can continue that down here.”
Olson, who has an engineering and teaching degree and will teach at Auburn Riverside, said he was inspired to take up coaching while getting his masters at Pacific Lutheran University.
“I took a class from (legendary football coach) Frosty Westering at PLU and one of the things he said was find something to do that you enjoy so you have seven days a week instead of just two,” he said. “So many people hate their job so they work five days to live for two. I took that to heart.”
Realizing that the quickest route to a coaching gig at the prep level was to become a teacher, Olson earned his master’s in teaching.
“And I became a teacher and coach,” he said. “And I don’t regret it for minute, I love it. Everyday is not perfect, of course, but I love what I do and I get to coach. That’s my passion, competing in sports. I just love it.”
Olson said that although he’s in this for the long haul, he sees no reason the Ravens can’t win now.
“With a guy like Mitch, we owe it to him to win right now,” Olson said. “I’m not happy with planning to win in five years, I want to win right now. I want to get out there and compete and win games.”