Mike Laws has been at Central Valley going back some five decades – long enough to see lapels widen and narrow, sideburns move up and down like the slide on a trombone, and basketball shorts go from high and tight to low and baggy.
And now he’s going to take over and drive.
Laws and former CV boys basketball coach Rick Sloan survived as a couple longer than most marriages.
“Both of us being CV grads, we go back 40 or 45 years here,” Laws said after completing the summer basketball season and as he prepares for his first fall as the Bears boys basketball coach after serving as Sloan’s long-time assistant coach. “I started coaching here when I came as a student teacher in 1985-86.”
Laws and Sloan both served under former CV coach Terry Irwin, whom both consider a mentor. Laws expects to see Sloan quickly follow Irwin into the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame.
“It would be a crime if he doesn’t,” Laws said.
Laws is the fifth consecutive CV grad to be named to head the program.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “Really exciting. At the same time there is apprehension. And anxiety. But I am really excited about the next few years.”
Laws was an integral part of the program his predecessor built, serving as junior varsity coach prepping players for Sloan’s varsity and serving as the varsity assistant coach.
He insists he has no plans for major renovation.
“Maybe a little splash of paint and color here and there,” he laughed. “There will be some subtle differences in style, of course. I don’t have Rick’s personality, and I’m not going to try to be anyone other than myself. What you look for in a successful program is a good foundation. Look at what Rick’s built here: Not only has he built a solid foundation, he’s built a pretty good structure. This program has been consistent for 30 years, and I think we can see more of the same going forward.”
Laws said he and Sloan were heavily influenced by Irwin, who coached at CV for 13 seasons after leaving Gonzaga Prep, where he coached John Stockton.
“I would say that, to Rick and to me as well, that it’s personal,” Laws said. “It’s what we’re about and what our program is about. There is a right way to do things and we’ve tried to teach that. We want the kids working their tails off and enjoying the process.”
That’s been the hallmark of CV basketball.
Drop in on a winter afternoon and you’ll see players running hard, working on techniques and skills without a lot of yelling. It’s an obvious product of having taught a consistent way of playing the game with a consistent set of expectations for every player in the program.
Another hallmark of CV athletics is the cooperation the school enjoys among all sports.
For most of Sloan’s 22 seasons as head boys basketball coach he also served as the football team’s offensive coordinator.
With Rick Giampietri as head football coach and now with CV grad Ryan Buttner at the helm, the football and basketball teams have worked together, especially during summer workouts in the school’s weight room.
“At some schools you see football and basketball conflict,” Laws said. “That’s not the case here. This year we have a few kids playing football and I wish we had more of them playing. We work together. We’re at each other’s games supporting one another. It’s the same with track and wrestling and baseball and all of the other sports. It’s our culture here. We all have that same picture of what it means to have a program, an athletic program.”
Laws said he’s a firm believer in having kids play multiple sports – if for no other reason than the life lessons new sports teach.
“Maybe you’re not good at it,” he said of a second or third sport. “That’s OK. Learning to fail and overcome, learning to do new things – those are invaluable lessons.”
Laws said the program will continue to run much the same as it has in past years.
“Look at this summer,” he said. “We run a lot of kids in the summer. I’m fortunate in that our coaching staff, bar none, puts in more time than any other high school staff. We ran six teams in the West Valley summer leagues. We sent two frosh teams to Eastern Washington for a team camp. We sent three teams to the camp at Gonzaga.
“Continuity is important. It’s that culture that we all understand, all building toward a common goal.”