When Lebanon High School administrators were faced with hiring a new head coach for the boys varsity basketball team, they didn’t have to travel far to find the right candidate.
Casey VandenBos, 36, is a 2001 graduate of Lebanon High School and has taught physical education and health at the school for the past three years. He spent six years on the Warriors coaching staff before serving as the head coach at Central Linn High School last year.
After that one-year absence, he is excited to be back at his alma mater and coaching the sport he loves. The Central Linn experience only added to his confidence that coaching is what he is meant to do.
“I realized that I was ready,” VandenBos said. “Everyone told me about all the decisions I would have to make. I felt prepared to deal with it. I was just waiting for an opportunity and Central Linn was very gracious and they gave me my first opportunity.”
Coming back to Lebanon, he inherits a team that lacks ideal size, but he is working to maximize the team’s potential. The Warriors were 3-21 last season, 2-12 in the Mid-Willamette Conference.
“We’re going to have to be smart, we’re going to have to be methodical. I believe you can teach basketball IQ. You can teach passing angles, how to read a defense,” VandenBos said. “Our style, we want to run, we don’t want to be in the half court very much.”
VandenBos is committed to looking at the big picture and focusing on the long-term success of the program. At the same time, there are eight seniors on the varsity roster, including athletes who have experienced great success on the football field.
They want to be competitive this season and believe that is possible.
Senior Eddy Kennedy is happy to have VandenBos, who was his junior varsity coach during Kennedy’s sophomore year, leading the program. Kennedy wants to make the playoffs this season and believes that is a realistic goal.
“He was always really positive. Creating bonds between teammates, being a brotherhood. That’s what really matters,” Kennedy said.
Those relationships allow players to hold each other accountable without creating a negative environment.
“I’m always positive with my teammates,” Kennedy said. “Everyone is trying their hardest. It’s easy to encourage them.”
Junior Zach Birchem broke his leg during a three-on-three tournament in July of 2017 and the recovery from that surgery cost him most of last season. Even when he played, he did not fell 100 percent.
“They didn’t take the screws out until after the season was over,” said Birchem, a 6-foot-1 shooting guard.
He agrees with Kennedy that the playoffs are the goal.
“Everyone wants it bad enough, everyone is going to work. We’re not going to go out without fighting,” Birchem said.
Kennedy is 6 feet tall and splits time between the wing and the post. He knows he is under-sized in the post and it will take a team effort to clean up the defensive glass.
“I think we’ll be OK. We really focus on boxing out in practice. It has a lot to do with effort,” Kennedy said.
On the perimeter, the Warriors are counting on senior Daylon Shoyo, sophomore Cole Weber, along with Birchem and Kennedy to become consistent outside shooters.
“He’s a sophomore so it’s going to be a growing year for him, but he can shoot the ball,” VandenBos said of Weber.
The primary post presence is 6-5 junior Kyle Haley.
“Kyle is physical. If a guy wants to be physical and doesn’t shy away from contact, we can work with that. That’s what we want,” VandenBos said.
Defensively, the Warriors will focus on playing man-to-man.
“If we can’t get the effort and the heart to stop the person in front of you, I feel like teaching zone bails them out a little bit,” VandenBos said. “We’ll press, we’ll apply pressure, because again, we don’t want to be stuck in the half court.”
The Warriors early schedule is very road heavy. Lebanon starts out with a non-league game at The Dalles on Friday, Nov. 30, followed by a road game at Hood River Valley.
The Warriors’ home opener is on Dec. 11 against Corvallis. That contest is followed by five road games plus a tournament at Elmira.