Former Mott assistant coach Dave Clarke, now the head coach at Owens Community College near Toledo, credits the Bears’ longtime coach Steve Schmidt with making him better at his craft. One could forgive Schmidt, however, for not reveling in his former assistant’s recent success after Clarke’s Express snapped Mott’s 27-game winning streak on the road Wednesday night; but, for Schmidt, his team’s 11-point loss might have been just what the doctor ordered.
“I’m never pleased with a loss, especially when most of our young players took a step backwards with how they prepared for a big week,” Schmidt said. “I think what Dave and Owens did was provide our guys with a reality check, though I’m not sure a few of them have the sense to realize that. But, I’m happy to see Dave run his program the way he does; they play with passion and compete.”
Clarke is in his second season with Owens after returning the program to relevance following a mediocre 10-21 season just prior to his hiring. In his first season, Clarke lost to Mott twice but managed to more than double the program’s win total, finishing the season with a 24-7 record.
Clarke’s experience at the junior college level and at Mott, specifically, has prepared him well to pursue his passion.
“I had a great two years at Mott,” he said. “Coach Schmidt let me do a lot when it came to dealing with practice, recruiting or handling players. That experience has made me a better coach. I also learned a lot from Coach Schmidt on how to motivate. He does a great job when it comes to motivating his players to play hard.”
Clarke also shares Schmidt’s attitude toward scheduling; beginning with the end in mind is what’s important.
“I want my players to believe they can win every game we play,” Clarke said. “We play an extremely tough non-conference and conference schedule in preparation for the postseason.”
One of those extremely tough teams, of course, is the defending national champions at Mott; for these games, there are a precious few secrets.
“My experience at Mott might gives me a little bit of an advantage in those games, but players change every year at this level,” Clarke said. “Mott has a totally different team than when I was there. And, of course, Coach Schmidt does a great job with his pressure defense, but you don’t have to have coached there to know that fact. Everyone in coaching knows it.”
It’s also no secret why Clarke wants to use Mott’s schematic for success at Owens. During his two years in Flint, Mott won 59 of 66 games and sent numerous players to the division one level.
“At Owens, I want to stress defense like Mott does,” said Clarke, who won a GLIAC Championship during his playing days at Ferris State University. “Mott also does a great job getting players to the division one level. I stress to my team that our goal is to get players prepared for that level, both athletically and academically.
“That is the real reason I coach at Owens and I believe it’s the reason Coach Schmidt has been so successful.”
I didn’t take long for Coach Schmidt to realize that Clarke wouldn’t be on his bench for long. He knew that Clarke’s future was as a head coach.
“I knew he would be a very good coach after working with him for a week,” Schmidt said. “He has a great combination of basketball knowledge, work ethic and commitment necessary to be extremely successful.”
Clarke and his Express will take on Mott (5-1) at 7:30 p.m. on December 20th at the Steve Schmidt Gymnasium.