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Coaching gives Ferris’ Sean Mallon different perspective

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 10, 2019

There are things that teams just don’t talk about.

“We never talk about the RPI, we never talk about the record, we never talk about where we are in the standings,” Ferris boys basketball coach Sean Mallon said. “That’s true of this team probably more than any group we’ve had.”

Mallon likes to keep things focused. Same with his players.

They talk about what they need to do to get better.

Records and such are deceiving.

“It’s one of those things where our record looks fine right now, but as far as we’re concerned, we have a long way to go,” Mallon explained. “I think most coaches, if they’re being honest, will say the same thing.”

Since quoting records is something they drum into writers starting on Day 1, it must be pointed out that following Tuesday’s 63-44 win over Shadle Park, Ferris is 10-3 overall, 5-2 against Greater Spokane League opponents – good for second in GSL 4A behind defending 4A state champion Gonzaga Prep (11-2, 7-0).

The Saxons lost to G-Prep in the first meeting between the teams 64-39 and they have split two games with University (9-4, 4-3).

That doesn’t matter to the coach. All that matters is what this group of players needs to accomplish by early next month, when the playoffs roll around and each game takes on a weight all its own.

“Right now, we need to dial in our defense,” Mallon said. “We’ve been playing more man-to-man this year and it sure needs some work. Offense has not looked great this year. Hopefully we’re finally getting that dialed in.

“What we’re focusing in on the most is our approach. Every day, every game, we need to play the right way.”

Mallon is in his third season as a head coach and his fourth year teaching at his alma mater.

As a player, Mallon played his first three seasons under Hall of Fame coach Wayne Gilman and was on the last team Gilman coached.

“We almost won a state championship for him,” Mallon said. “We lost in the title game.”

Gilman died after the season after a 16-month battle with colon cancer.

It’s not an easy challenge Mallon has taken on, working and coaching on the same campus as his first high school coach.

“It’s tough to be in this position,” he said. “He had such an impact on my life and on the lives of my teammates. It’s tough to be the coach in the same place where he coached.”

As a senior at Ferris, Mallon played for Don Van Lierop, and he got the Ferris job after Van Lierop retired after a 30-year coaching career.

“I think Don will tell you the same thing,” Mallon said. “You are never going to measure up to a legacy. Yes, basketball was a part of it, but who (Gilman) was as a human being was just as big. You just have to set out to do the best you can to be a good person. It’s impossible to measure up.”

In many ways, Mallon already is.

Following his college career at Gonzaga, Mallon said he stopped looking for a way to make a living and started looking at how he wanted to make a life.

He completed a master’s degree in teaching while student teaching at Ferris, where he spent a season as a junior varsity assistant, then as a part-time assistant with Van Lierop and the varsity before earning the top job.

Having played at the highest levels of the game, Mallon said he finds the job at the head of the bench to be a different challenge.

“Don’t get me wrong, coaches definitely have an impact on the game like no one else,” he said. “But I have to say that, as a player, I never worried all that much about all the things I worry about now. I worry about games a whole lot more now as a coach.

“As a player, you show up, the coach tells you what you need to know and you go out there and play the game.”

It’s been an easy transition from player to coach, he said.

“You never know exactly what you’re going to find until you get the reps,” he said. “I’ve been able to coach some good players and even better guys. I enjoy the players.

“I love it. It was a great decision to go for this.”

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