SBVC basketball coach wants to win with local talent

I ran into SBVC men’s basketball coach Gerry Wright recently at a
Wolverines football game and he is excited about the coming season. You
might remember Wright was put in the precarious position of taking over
the Wolverines in December when previous coach Derrick Pugh was relieved
of his duties just as the team was leaving for an afternoon game in
Riverside.

Wright did an admirable job, directing the team to a Foothill
Conference title. (In a preseason poll of memeber coaches, SBVC was
picked to finish fourth.) A playoff run ended with a second round loss
to Saddleback. The outcome might have been different had the team’s only
presence in the paint not been injured in practice a few days earlier.

The interim tag was lifted and Wright was officially handed the job
in April. He deserved it.

It looked like he was going to be loaded this year since most of his
key players last year were freshmen. But other coaches went after his
players like vultures while SBVC administrators tried to make a
decision. Wright said there is no animosity between himself and the
other players. Most were from out of state and Wright said they didn’t
have the financial means to stay here.

The only returning player is Bo Harrison, a local product out of
Redlands East Valley. But that is OK with Wright who says he wants to
prove you can win with local talent.

Former Coach Phil Mathews, who took the team to the state tournament in
both his years here, had connections all over the country and used those
when it came to recruiting. The team that played at SBVC last year was
basically his.

There is nothing really wrong with that. This is college, not high
school. Recruiting is part of the game. But it still seems to violate
the spirit for which junior colleges were intended. Most of the local
players who have played at SBVC in the past few years were nothing more
than seat fillers on the bench. It could not have been easy for them to
practice hard every day for their neighborhood school when they knew
they were going to be pushed aside for highly touted players from across
the country who probably never heard of San Bernardino.

Having the majority of players from out of state also helps add to a
disconnect between the school and the community when there should be
just the opposite. Let’s hope Wright is successful in his mission.