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Succeeding Marshall Haskins, former point guard says defense comes first

If ever a man was groomed for a job, it was Pat Strickland.

And now that job is his.

Jefferson High has picked Strickland to replace Marshall Haskins as coach of the Democrats' esteemed boys basketball team.

Haskins stepped down after last season, when the Demos won the Class 5A state title. He had served as Jefferson's athletic director and interim head of the Jefferson Young Men's Academy, and even before the state tournament, he announced that he was ready for full-time administrative work. Haskins is now a vice principal at Wilson.

For the past 10 years, Strickland was his right-hand man in the Jefferson basketball program. Strickland, 37, grew up in the Jefferson district, won a state championship in 1989 while at Wilson, played point guard at Oregon State and has coached top young players and AAU or elite teams for several years.

Looking back, 'never in my wildest dreams did I think I would coach at any level,' he says, 'but I started getting into it when I got out of college, and it's been a gradual process ever since.'

To the point where, on Tuesday, Strickland could state that during the search for Haskins' successor, 'I never doubted that I'm prepared to do the job.'

Strickland will keep his day job - for 14 years, he has worked for the Child Protective Services division of the Oregon Department of Services, investigating child abuse cases, largely in Northeast and North Portland.

At Oregon State, he studied sociology and and majored in liberal studies, with a minor in communications.

Along his path as a student, athlete and coach, he says he's been blessed by God, with supportive parents, positive peers and friends and excellent basketball mentors.

Strickland attended Woodlawn Elementary School and Whitaker Middle School. He rattles off the names of Damon Stoudamire, Erin Cowan, Charles McKinney, Gene Williams, Terry Tims, Jr., Antoine Stoudamire, Kenny Warren and Canaan Chatman as just some of the friends who have influenced him.

His first coaching gig was on a team that included sixth-grader Brandon Brooks, who would become one of the most prolific guards in Portland Interscholastic League history, playing for Jefferson. Cowan and Tims, Jr., helped get him into coaching; Tims' younger brother was the same age as Brooks.

'I was fortunate to have a lot of basketball mentors and good male figures in my community,' Strickland says. 'Marshall was a role model to me, as were Tony Hopson and Ray Leary. And there was Dick Beachell, who coached me at Wilson, and Rob Chavez, who coached me at Chemeketa Community College, along with my early coaches, Vernon Baker and Booker Wells, and Jimmy Anderson at Oregon State. They all molded me in terms of my basketball philosophy.'

Strickland has been thinking about what he can bring to Jefferson as the head man.

'I'm probably going to tweak things just a little,' he says. 'Just put my identity on a few things. A major focus, too, will be the academic side, off-the-court stuff and getting guys to college.

'As far as coaching, I'm a defensive guy. I know that if you want to put a ring on your finger at the end of the night you have to be able to stop somebody. We'll press a lot, but probably under more control, because I hate giving up free buckets.

'I consider myself to be great on the Xs and Os; I like to run a lot of sets and special plays, but I also like to let kids play. I definitely want to be able to get up and down the court, but also to execute in the halfcourt.'

Knowing the players in the Jefferson program, and having run many a practice for Haskins while the coach/AD/administrator was tied up with other duties or dealing with health issues, Strickland says he expects a 'smooth transition.'

He plans to ask McKinney to join his coaching staff. Two other Wilson grads, twin brothers Jimmy and Jermaine Thompson, also could come aboard. And others will be considered for roles with the Demos.

Jefferson graduated three key seniors from the '08 title team - Tyrone White, Kalonji Paschal and Henry Williams - and one of two super sophomores last season, Terrance Ross, is expected to attend Montrose Christian, a prep school in Rockville, Md.

But Mr. Versatile, 6-7 Terrance Jones, will be back for his junior year, and Jefferson has numerous hopefuls with game. Among them: 6-7 junior Noah Kone, who may play soccer again for the Demos before settling into basketball mode. 'Of all the players in the program, to me he's the most improved,' Strickland says.

The Demos have budding varsity candidates such as Alex Johnson, Derail Nelson, Larry Warren and Marlon Miles - and they're adding transfers Antoine Hosley, a 6-0 left-handed guard from Evergreen (Wash.) High, and 5-11 guard Tyrone Phillips from Benson, one of only four returning players to receive all-league mention in the PIL 6A last season.

Jones, a major-college recruit, figures to play a bit of every position for Strickland's Demos. 'He's dominant everywhere,' the new coach says. 'We probably want to start him down low to get easy buckets and open up the perimeter. At times, we'll have him bring the ball up the court, or play on the wing. What he has to understand is that whatever position he's playing, he has to play that position; he tends to want to go to the ball all the time. But he had a great spring and summer, pretty much dominating a lot of guys in the country.'

Strickland has some up and coming talent coming up, too - in his own house. Sons Tyus and Kadeem Strickland are guards who attend Beaumont Middle School; Tyus will be a seventh-grader, and Kadeem is going into sixth grade. Pat Strickland named his oldest son after Tyus Edney, the standout point guard who played for UCLA while Strickland was at OSU. In addition to Tyus and Kadeem, there is stepson Isaiah Robertson, who is entering sixth grade as a Montessori student - and, at age 11 and 5 foot 7, is projected to be a 7-footer.

Could all three wind up playing for Coach Strickland at Jefferson?

'That option is always on the table,' he says.

Strickland, who has been married for nearly five years, also has a daughter, Paige Strickland, who is a third grader at Irvington Elementary.

In the meantime, Jefferson's boys basketball team will continue playing top competition, year in and year out. Next season's schedule has the Democrats facing Seattle squads, taking part in the Les Schwab Invitational and dueling in January with PIL 6A rival Grant, also a defending state champion.

'We feel we're the real state champions, because we beat them (68-54 on Jan. 18, 2008),' Strickland says, with a chuckle.

After both Jefferson and Grant won titles at McArthur Court in Eugene, they talked about perhaps playing an extra game, as a fundraiser. 'But there were a lot of rules and restrictions,' Strickland says. So the game next January will have to do for new bragging rights.

However things go for the Demos, Strickland says he'll bring a different persona to the coaching seat.

'I'm very different from Marshall,' he says. 'Haskins is a barker, an in-your-face guy who would get on you. I'm totally the opposite, kind of laid-back. I like to address things in a more private way, at practice or during halftime or in the locker room.

'I doubt if you'll see me in anybody's face, or in any official's face. My philosophy is that the officials are just going to do the job they're going to do, good or bad.'

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