PENDLETON — Just because you think you’ve found the right answer doesn’t always mean the search is over yet.
That’s the predicament Blue Mountain Community College athletics found itself in this summer when the initial hire for the men’s basketball head coach position withdrew from the job he’d taken just weeks earlier. The vacancy was closed for less time than a revolving door.
But that opened up an opportunity for Adam Ellis.
“I’ve always wanted to get into college coaching and it’s a really difficult field to get into,” said Ellis, who formally took over the program in June following the departure of the recently hired Anthony Elias. “I wanted to be a head coach (at the college level) some day. I didn’t realize it was going to come that fast actually.”
Ellis comes to Pendleton most recently from Marina High School in Huntington Beach, Calif., where he was an assistant coach. He had also previously held the head coaching position at Tekoa-Oakesdale High in Washington after graduating with a Master’s Degree in coaching and athletic administration from Concordia University-Irvine (CA).
This spring, BMCC athletic director Brett Bryan filled the head coaching job for men’s basketball, locking in a young and energetic coach Elias that had the program thinking big toward the future.
“I feel fortunate that we’re able to get a guy of his caliber,” Bryan told the East Oregonian in March.
Turns out he was feeling fortunate for good reason because Elias was also on the radar of Morningside College, a private NAIA-level school in Sioux City, Iowa. Not long after Elias took the community college job in Pendleton, Morningside swooped in to give the coach a head assistant position. Elias, a graduate of Concordia University-Chicago, chose to return to the Midwest.
But that’s fine with Ellis. The latest Timberwolves coach, taking over for long-time head man Larry Bartee who retired after last season, is happy to get the gig any way he could — even if it did mean a bit of a late start.
Elias had signed a half dozen new recruits in his time with BMCC but that still left Ellis with a load of recruiting to do late in the offseason. The summer months were a flurry of phone calls and visits that resulted in 13 new signings, new players coming in from California, Nevada, Washington, Idaho and Oregon.
This year’s Timberwolves team won’t have some of the size that the 2011-12 roster did — which indluded 6-foot-6 forward Ryan Strand, who led the T-Wolves in points and rebounds as a sophomore before following Elias to the four-year school Morningside in the offseason. But Ellis can play small ball, too. His style is all about cutting out the errors that cost a team points and wins.
“The game of basketball can be as hard as you want it to be,” he said. “If you can stick to the fundamentals, you can limit a lot of mistakes.”
Ellis is already building on-court chemistry with his new players, who have been doing daily conditioning drills and game strategy sessions since school started this fall. The first day of full-fledged practice is just around the corner: Oct. 15.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.