By Jared Talbot | firstname.lastname@example.org
It is hard to imagine a Flagler men’s basketball season without Coach Bo Clark.
Clark had spent the past 31 years coaching at Flagler and with his departure, a void was left behind. But as one era ends, a new one must start.
It is now the era of Coach Chad Warner. The all-time winningest coach at Shorter University and former Valparaiso Assistant Coach was hired in the offseason to take over the Flagler men’s basketball team. After an offseason of getting adjusted to his new life in St. Augustine, he is excited to get his first season underway.
The Saints open their season against the coach’s former school on November 14, as the Saints will open against Shorter University at Flagler’s Gymnasium. With the season just a few weeks away, a lot of questions have come up regarding the new culture. Warner has not lost much in his career but faces a new challenge as he attempts to lead the Saints to their first winning season since the 2007-2008 season when the Saints went 20-7.
With 10 years spanning since its last winning season, he has worked hard to establish what his vision for the team.
“I have absolutely loved being the head coach of this team,” Warner said. “I’m extremely proud and honored to be able to lead this team and Flagler has been so great at welcoming me and making me as comfortable as I can be going into the season.”
While he knows he has big shoes to fill, Warner said he thinks highly of longtime coach Clark.
“I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with Coach Clark several times and I have a lot of respect for what he was able to accomplish,” Warner said. “I’m not trying to replace anybody, but rather instill a good culture surrounding these young men. Ultimately we want to ensure these young men not only turn into better basketball players but better men.”
As the team has struggled on the court in recent years, it has also struggled with bringing in a consistent fan base. Flagler does not have a stadium and as a small liberal arts college, fan bases have always been hard to come by. But Assistant Coach Blake Selland, said he doesn’t see that as too much of a problem this year.
“I believe the fans will show up. Coach Warner has always been good at bringing in a crowd and he has and will work to ensure the community knows about this team,” Selland said. “It takes going to local schools and handing out schedules and bringing a level of excitement to the area, but I believe he will do that.”
Warner said he’s is fortunate to have five of last year’s starters returning from last year. A team compiled of eight returning players combined with three newcomers created an environment filled with continuity and direction. Junior guard Vaughn McCall, who led the league in scoring a year ago, sees a much-improved team going into this year.
“We dealt with some injuries last year and I think the main difference between the past and this year is how close we are as a team,” McCall said. “In the past going into the season we have been close, but this year just feels different with how close we are as a team.”
McCall sank 65 three pointers last season–the seventh most in the Peach Belt conference–and played underneath Clark for the previous two seasons. He believes the main difference between Clark and Warner is attitude towards the game.
“Coach Clark had been here for long he was so comfortable, but Coach Warner is a younger hungrier Coach and he’s bringing a new attitude every day we are together,” McCall said.
The team welcomed sophomore transfer Damerit Brown this year as well. Brown played at Shorter last season, averaging 11.1 points per game and has played with McCall since they were in middle school together. He said he thinks this team will win more games and bring in more fans he believed they were correlated with each other.
“I believe the more you win, the more fans will show up,” McCall said. “I think that is true no matter where a team plays.”
As the team faces several preseason matchups in the coming weeks before it’s opener, one thing is for sure. Warner is bringing a new attitude and more reasons to show up on game days and watch this team play.
“I’m excited to get out there and see what we are made of,” Warner said. “I think we have a fantastic group of young men that I’m proud to lead this season and beyond.”