With the high school basketball season approaching, Thunder Mountain boys' basketball head coach John Blasco will be donning some unfamiliar colors.
"It's a little weird putting on a Thunder Mountain shirt when I have all Crimson Bears stuff," he said with a laugh. "It's a little weird wearing blue, silver and black."
But Blasco said it is easy to mentally get past that.
"It's an opportunity that very few guys across the country get. I get to start my own program the way I want it from day one," he said. "That's the exciting part, I get to establish expectations and traditions. It's truly a great opportunity."
While he is starting fresh with Thunder Mountain's brand new basketball program, Blasco said that his experience at Juneau-Douglas, both as a player and coach, helped mold him into what he is today, especially on the basketball court.
"The greatest years of my life were spent playing under (former JDHS) coach (George) Houston. Coach (Steve) Potter was an assistant for him at the time, and I respect those guys more than anybody," he said. "I learned a ton about the game of basketball and life. They're some of the best coaches around.
"There's a lot that I took notes on that I will modify to my own, but I want to incorporate what they taught me because that's such a hugely successful program. I can only think about where I want my program in comparison to theirs."
Blasco said he knows that there will be some difficulties during the upcoming season, as there are with any new program, but his goal is to win and compete in Southeast Alaska.
"My goals are to establish a program that is desired by the kids to want to play for with a reputation of quality individuals and hard work. From that, we will win games," he said. "I expect to be competitive this year in the southeast and across the state.
Blasco said he is a defense-first type of guy that will focus on man-to-man with a little zone defense thrown in here and there.
"I'm not a scorer, I'm a defense guy. I'm going to run a lot of man with a lot of pressure, but I'll probably throw a little zone in there," he said. "Coach Houston laughed a little when I said that, but I'm young and new and I have to try new things."
He said offensively he still needs to find out what he has personnel-wise.
"I do have some talent and we will utilize it."
When it comes down to X's and O's, Blasco said he will rely on past experience for what he needs to be a successful head coach.
"I fully expect to be coaching the way I played, as I hard as I could every minute. The coaches that I have have the same mentality," he said. "They're all competitors and they know what it takes to win, but they also know how to enjoy the game."
He said he will demand as much out of his players with the expectation of each player being an extension of himself on the court.
"My ideal type of player is a guy that's extremely coachable and will basically replicate me on the court. He will listen to what I have to say and take it out on the court and lead the guys in the fashion that he knows that I want them to play," he said. "He is going to dive for loose balls, pick up his teammates when they get knocked down, be encouraging when guys make mistakes, relay my messages in a positive manner, and help be another voice on the court."
Of the many anticpated moments of the first basketball season in Thunder Mountain history, Blasco said he can't help but look forward to the first game against JDHS.
"You can already feel the in-town rivalry. I think the kids and coaches are both excited and it's going to be fun," he said. "It's going to bring a new flavor to basketball here in town.
"I'm going to be lying awake at night getting ready for those games."
When the two teams meet for the first time Feb. 5, both teams will know what they have on the court. If Blasco's Falcons can produce the way he expects, chances are the Crimson Bears' coaches will have a tough time sleeping as well.
Matthew Tynan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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