Oleen has withstood the test of time

By Steve Sell
November 24, 2014

Monday’s musings...

• OLEEN REACHES MILESTONE — Bethany College’s Clair Oleen has seen a lot of coaches come and a lot of coaches go in his lifetime.

But Oleen, a 1977 Swede graduate and former basketball standout, has never got caught up in the revolving door. He started as George Stephens’ faithful right-hand man for two years before the Swedes’ women’s job opened up. After winning 208 games to earn the Bethany all-time record, he succeeded his mentor as the head men’s coach and he’s now in his 22nd year, 36th overall.

On Saturday at Lindsborg’s Hahn Gym, he won his 292nd men’s game, giving him 500 total in his time at Bethany.

As you would expect, there’s been highs and lows during his career, but the needle points heavily toward the highs. Oleen currently ranks eighth for most victories for an active men’s coach in NAIA.

Oleen, who led the Swedes to the 2003 national championship game, certainly will remember victory No. 500. It has to rank among the Top 10 in his career as the Swedes upset the No. 6 team in NAIA Division I, St. Gregory’s, which was a national Final Four team last year and returned all its stars.

Oleen’s 2013-14 team had a somewhat disappointing finish after such a big buildup. Loaded with mercurial offensive talent, including All-American Idris ibn Idris, the Swedes had one of the most prolific offensive teams in the country, but in the end couldn’t get the defensive stops in key games, which goes against his basic coaching rules.

Oleen told his coaching colleagues at KCAC Media Day last month in Wichita to pick his team 10th since it lost most of its offensive firepower due to graduation and attrition. But he’s rebuilt on the fly and said what he likes about this year’s team is that it’s still strong offensively, but much more attention is being paid to the defensive end. Bethany clearly is the surprise team in the KCAC at this point with a 5-1 record, having won its last five games.

Congratulations to Oleen. He’s always been enjoyable to work with and there’s no question about the fire and passion he brings to the sidelines. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t push his total to the 600 mark before he’s through.

• BULLDOGS STRUGGLING — Meanwhile, it’s been a disappointing 3-4 start for McPherson College’s men.

The Bulldogs were 3-1 before losing games to Central Christian College, Baker and Haskell. In the games against Central and Haskell, they had healthy second-half leads, only to let them get away.

Coach Tim Swartzendruber likes a tough nonconference schedule and he’s certainly lined that up for his team. It plays nine of its first 11 games on the road, including Bethany and Bethel to kick off the KCAC season next week.

The Bulldogs shot the ball well in their first five games, but inexplicably couldn’t throw it in the ocean when they returned home for the first time this past weekend. They struggled terribly from 3-point range, going 8 of 42 in a 24-hour period. In this day and age of college basketball, if you don’t shoot the 3-ball well, you’re in trouble.

Swartzendruber insists there’s some good shooters on the team and hopes they will find the range in these next four games, all on the road.

• PRIVATE SCHOOL DOMINATION – The private schools are ruling Class 5A and Class 4A Division I football.

Both championship games of those classes feature private-school powerhouses. Carroll, probably the best team in Kansas regardless of class and maybe one of the best of all time, will probably manhandle Randy Dreiling’s new team, St. Thomas Aquinas, in the 5A finals. It hasn’t taken long for Dreiling to work his magic in his first year.

Dreiling’s old team, Hutchinson, is again playing for a 6A championship after starting the year 2-4 under new coach Ryan Cornelson. Dodge City transfer Blake Middleton has literally put the Salthawks on his back with some amazing rushing performances. His father is an assistant coach at Hutchison Community College. The Salthawks play unbeaten Shawnee Mission East, which is 12-0.

In the 4A Division I title game, Miege figures to also win in decisive fashion when it plays Topeka Hayden in another all-private-school showdown. I have to admit I was surprised how Hayden dominated Buhler in the semifinals on Friday. I didn’t think any team could slow down that Crusader offense, but from all reports the Wildcats were far more physical and won in resoundingly blowout fashion, 49-19.