Longtime coach at Columbia River has toned down his theatrics on the sideline through the years, and there is a reason for that
Some time ago, Columbia River basketball coach David Long and assistant coach Jim Sevall attended a college basketball game.
One of the college coaches that night was in a fit. Yelling at the officials. Taking off his sportcoat. Throwing it on the floor. A temper tantrum.
“Look at that guy,” Long told Sevall. “What an ass.”
Sevall replied with some tough love to his longtime friend.
“That’s you,” Sevall said.
“Seriously? Do I look like that?” Long asked.
“You do,” was the answer.
Long said he knew he was demonstrative while patrolling the bench on game nights, and he knew he had a reputation around Clark County for his ways. He never thought he was that bad, though.
Until that night.
He reviewed video of Columbia River games from previous seasons. He saw himself. He really saw himself.
“I didn’t even know,” Long said.
He changed. Oh, he remains very opinionated while coaching a game. The officials still know he is there, but he is nothing like his early years.
“My biggest regret is the way I treated officials. I look back at how demeaning I was to them,” Long said last week, in the middle of his 30th and final season as the head coach of the Columbia River boys basketball team. “These are good human beings. Our officials really do a good job. They did a good job back in the day, too. I just wanted everything perfect. Every bad call makes a big difference, and I just couldn’t let it go. I wasn’t mature enough.”
Long described himself as a “jerk” for how he acted.
“I treated officials like they were part of the competition, like they were part of the other team,” Long said. “They don’t have a stake in the game. They’re there so we can play the game.”
It took him a long time, but he said he has grown up.
“I changed consciously. I don’t think it’s right to treat other human beings like I treated them,” Long said. “It’s an impossible job to get perfect. I’ve never coached a perfect game. Never seen a perfectly played game. Why would I expect that?”
Long also has another famous reputation in the local basketball scene. He is all about slowing down the tempo. Or is he?
For years, he has said he will run-and-gun with anyone when he has the athletes to do that. However, he has only had a few teams that would flourish under that style. Instead, his successful teams dictated the tempo, and that tempo was often a much slower version of the game we see today.
“I’ve lost more games stalling than I’ve won,” Long said. “I don’t believe in stalling. I do believe in tempo. Like I’ve always said, you take throwers to a track meet, you don’t enter them in the sprints. I get a lot of throwers. I don’t get speedsters. You’ve got to control the tempo.”
Long can still go on a long rant about the shot clock that came to boys basketball in Washington prior to the 2009-10 season. He also takes a lot of pride knowing his teams played a significant role in bringing the shot clock to the state. In 2009, his team stunned Rainier Beach and Bellevue in the state tournament with their deliberate offense, reaching the state championship game. The scores of those games were 46-45 and 52-51.
The shot clock was approved starting the very next season.
“If I can keep the game in the 50s … I have a chance to beat you,” Long said. “Tempo control gave coaches another weapon. The shot clock has taken that away. I understand why. I don’t agree with it, but I understand why.”
Long has adapted, of course. He has 452 wins with the boys program.
Oh, and that philosophy of his? It has helped his teams set two state tournament records. Long said those records just might be there forever.
The 2004 Columbia River team allowed 21 points against Selah. The record was tied by West Seattle in 2008. With the shot clock, it is unlikely that record will be broken.
And the 2008 Columbia River team shot 73.9 percent from the floor against Mercer Island. The team was 17 of 23 for the game. Again, with the shot clock, a record unlikely to be broken. Hard to get a good, quality shot on every possession nowadays.
David Long and his wife Holly are planning to retire to Arizona. He is a changed man after 30 years as the head coach. But he still believes in tempo, and he expects to see Columbia River’s records in the record books for years to come.