May 14, 2013

Chickasha native returns to Mt. SAC, leads team to title

— Men’s head basketball coach Clark Maloney has completely ignored the premise of Thomas Wolfe’s 1940 novel, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Not only has he come home to Mt. SAC, but he’s done it in celebratory fashion.

“It has been more of a homecoming for me, because this was where I got my start in coaching,” said Clark, who after a 14-year hiatus has returned to coach the Mounties and has led the team to its first-ever state championship.

Last month, the Mountie men made their first appearance in the state championship game since 1955 and blew out Chaffey, 102-88, racking up the highest score at a state championship game in history.

“No one thought that these kids could do this,” said Clark. “But they had such a focus going into the playoffs that they were ready to be mentioned in the same sentence as the top teams in the state. We had a lot of guys who had something to prove.”

Clark knew that with his return to the college last summer, he had a lot of work to do with a team and players who were brand new to him. There were a lot of question marks at the beginning for the Mounties in 2012-13. But a few good outings against highly-ranked teams such as Yuba and Fresno helped solidify the Mounties’ confidence, and the turning point came at the end of preseason.

Urging them to think like champions,“I told them that today there’s no more shallow water,” recalls Clark. “From here on out, it’s either sink or swim.”

Fortunately, they decided to swim—and swim hard. The rest is history. The Mounties finished the season with a 29-3 record.

“I’m proud that they accepted the fact that there’s nothing wrong with hard work,” he says of his championship team. “They were good listeners and hard workers.”

Clark’s first tour of duty at Mt. SAC started with his first coaching assignment under head coach Ralph Osterkamp for the 1992-93 season. Two years later, he was named the Mounties’ head coach when Osterkamp retired.

Then after the 1998 season, Clark left Mt. SAC for a series of university coaching positions, including five years at St. Thomas University in Florida where he led a new program to two conference championships and two trips to the NAIA national championships. He also compiled winning records at Salem International University in West Virginia and West Texas A&M before returning to Mt. SAC.

“It was easy coming back, in a sense, because I knew the institution and I knew a lot of the people who were here before,” he says. “And at the same time, it was kind of eerie. It was the same carpet, the same desk, the same office. It was like I was in a dream.”

Of course while some things remain the same, it’s also true that a lot has changed in 14 years. With new buildings scattered across the landscape over the last decade and a half, he says he nearly needed a map to navigate the campus.

A native of Chickasha, Okla., Clark was a standout point guard during his playing days for Central Junior College and Mid America Nazarene University, both in Kansas. He helped lead Mid America to its first conference championship and received his bachelor’s there. Once he came to California and started at Mt. SAC, he went on to earn his master’s from Azusa Pacific University.

With his return to Walnut with his wife and daughter, who was born during his first stint at Mt. SAC, the cycle is now complete. Coming back to the college was a non-issue for the family. And no matter where his travels have taken him, Clark Maloney knows that he’s now home at Mt. SAC.

“It’s just feels like here is where I’m supposed to be,” he says, smiling.

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