[Editor's Note: As we debuted the fall, our regular Coachspeak blog will catch up with the men and women who lead some of the area's top high school teams throughout the area. Folowing is the first Coachspeak of the winter season.]
When approached by the new Baltimore Catholic League historian with the question of how many wins he has, Mount St. Joseph basketball coach Pat Clatchey was stumped.
In his 20th season at his alma mater, Clatchey is proud of the fact the Gaels have enjoyed 14 straight 20-win seasons and the team is on its way to a 15th straight with a 5-0 start this season. The consistent excellence has become a trademark with the Mount St. Joseph program under Clatchey's watch, a tenure that includes six regular-season BCL championships, three tournament titles and four Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference crowns.
When he's not coaching the Gaels or helping run basketball camps, Clatchey enjoys spending time with his wife, Melanie, and their sons, Clark, 14, and Connor, 10. Playing tennis and ping pong, and watching his sons play baseball are some of his favorite activities.
As this week's Coachspeak guest, we asked Clatchey five questions about the upcoming season, his coaching philosophies and how the game has changed in his years as a coach. (The No. 2 Gaels face a tough early-season test Friday night against No. 3 St. Frances.)
Early in a given season, what are some specific things you look for to get a feel for what kind of team you may have?
Our evaluations start on the defensive end of the floor. We try to be the best man-to-man-defense we can be, and there's an emphasis on that. The second thing I put a premium on is value the basketball, not being sloppy, careless and reckless with the ball. We want to have offensive balance and to play to our strength. The intangible factors are effort, hustle, intensity, basketball IQ and don't beat yourself.
What might we see different in the BCL and MIAA A Conference from what we've seen in recent seasons?
I expect this year to be very competitive, balanced with a lot of parity. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but I don't foresee one team jumping out and being the dominant team. I think from top to bottom – not that there is a top to bottom – but I think there's a lot of competition and a lot of good teams capable of beating each other.
What impresses you the most about the BCL and its long-standing tradition?
Just the long history of really good teams, really good coaches, and some really good players. I've always kind of compared it to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Year in and year out – some better than others – there's usually always some good teams and good, high-caliber of play. I think it's neat to be part of something that has been around for so long in the area. I grew up watching it and I've been a fan of it for a long time and to be coaching in it has been real special.
What is the one piece of advice you received that has stayed with you the longest?
Two things: Be who you are and be honest. You have to be honest with your players. I operate more on the theory of telling them what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. I tell our guys that I'll be your biggest fan but I'll be your toughest critic. I hear all the time, guys talking about wanting to play at the next level, wanting to be a Division I player, but they really don't have any idea what that really takes.
My duty is to prepare them for that and the fact that we've had 28 or 29 Division I players, hopefully that type of credibility lends them to really listen and learn.
What aspect of the game has changed the most since you started coaching?
I think the players value the fundamental and skill aspects less and rely more on the athletic aspect. I don't think you really compensate [coaching], but you get them to understand that part of it. Guys that can run and jump – they're a dime a dozen. Guys that can run, jump, dribble, pass, shoot with a high level of efficiency, move well without the ball … then you have a player. I really don't differentiate what I'm trying to do, and it's a challenge to get them to understand that.
Bonus Question: What's something that probably only your wife knows about you?
That I probably have about 90 pairs of Nike sneakers. I work a lot of Nike camps during the summer and I kind of developed a shoe fetish. I have it bad – it's not a good addiction [laughs].