By LANCE MASTERSON
Of the Keizertimes
Arguably the most powerful person in Keizer when it comes to sports is the athletic director at McNary High School.
And for the first time in 15 years, there’s a new AD in town. Ron Richards came from McKay to replace former AD Mike Maghan, who retired last summer.
Richards, originally from Butte, Montana, played college sports at the University of Montana. He has since coached football and wrestling at the high school and college levels. Ten years ago, he became athletic director at McKay High School.
Richards sat down with the Keizertimes to answer a few questions.
KT: Why McNary, why now?
Ron Richards (RR): When Mike Maghan talked about retiring, I decided I’d like to finish my career out at a school like McNary. One that can compete across all sports at the state level, on the state stage. I thought that would be a fitting end to my career.
In addition, student leadership and character building are passions for Mike and me. I’d like to continue his work here at McNary.
KT: What differences are there between student-athletes at McNary versus their peers at McKay?
RR: Well, the biggest difference is that there are more students that have a real interest in athletics at McNary than at McKay. What I’ve noticed at McNary, regardless of whether it’s a boys or girls sport, whether it’s an individual or team sport, they’ve had the athletes that have been able to advance and compete at the state level, and I find that intriguing.
KT: I imagine you’re aware of McNary varsity girls winning 41 of 42 league games in volleyball, basketball and softball during the 2009-10 seasons. Pretty impressive?
RR: It sure is. Again, all sports here at McNary, depending upon the year, have had some really impressive feats. The girls doing that last year. Two years ago, the baseball team coming out of nowhere (to win a state title).
Last year, the wrestling team, in my mind, coming out of nowhere to win the Central Valley Conference championship. I’m the commissioner of wrestling and if I were to pencil in who was going to be the conference champion going into that tournament, McNary was one of them, but wouldn’t have been my first choice.
KT: What about the youth sports and how they feed into the McNary program? Is that different than what you saw at McKay?
RR: It’s my understanding that there’s a very strong youth program in Keizer. I think anytime you get a small-town atmosphere, and I like that McNary feeds into the small-town atmosphere because it is the high school of Keizer. Rather than one of six, it’s one of one.
My background has been in that type of deal. I really think it’s easier for the community to get behind their youth sports when the goal is to move their kids up into the same high school.
KT: How familiar are you with the coaching staffs here:
RR: Not very. I mean the ones that I’ve dealt with when I was the commissioner, and I’ve been a commissioner for a couple of sports. I’ve dealt with those people personally. The rest of them, just meeting them before games or talking to them. A couple of our coaches I met with in June. And I’ll be meeting with all the fall coaches before the season kicks off. And then the whole coaching staff once they all come back.
KT: What’s the status on the search for a new varsity baseball coach?
RR: The status on that is that we’ll be interviewing soon. It came to my attention late, and it was too late for Mike (Maghan) to really do anything about baseball, and too early for me to do anything about baseball.
We did know that the McNary baseball program is one that deserves a statewide look. I’m a firm believer that you should be able to grow your own coaches, and be able to work within your system to be able to replace them.
But when you’re competing at such a high level, you also want to make sure that you don’t allow any rock to go unturned. You want to make sure you’re getting the best candidate. I believe that we’ve got some solid candidates right here, but I also want to have a look and see what the availability is statewide.
We’re getting pretty close to sitting down, getting a group together to start interviewing coaches. And, of course, we’ll begin the interviews with what we have here at McNary High School. We’ll be looking at others who have applied and deciding whether it’s worth it to bring outsiders in.
At this point we haven’t decided whether we’ll be focusing internally or whether there’s some good candidates outside who will fit our needs that we should at least listen to …”
KT: What does it mean not having Redmond in the Central Valley Conference?
RR: Well, the main thing it means is we don’t have to travel there. It’s not mandated that we travel there for any reason. We’ll still be playing Redmond from time to time, because if we’re looking for a quality game and that sports gives us that quality game, we’ll travel or have them come here. But we don’t have to, so we get to choose our times.
We don’t have to travel to Redmond in February. We don’t have to travel to Redmond at the beginning of April when you get that April snowstorm that makes the pass really bad.
KT: That said, do you think a six-team Central Valley Conference is too small, too local?
RR: It’s too small. What we wanted to see, meaning people who think like I do, we wanted to see conferences with eight teams. We thought there was real value playing outside your conference … but there’s also real value in a strong large conference. We thought eight teams was the best. Not everybody agreed with us.
KT: Describe your philosophy as athletic director.
RR: Oh boy, that’s a real difficult one. My philosophy is to hire the best people and let them coach and do what it takes to get things done. I’m really a hands-off guy. I try to hire the best people and let them do what’s best.
That being said, I’m real big on leadership and character in the way athletes present themselves in representing the school.
In education what we’re trying to do is to build future leaders and future citizens of our communities. To do that we want to make sure that we’re always building character, that we’re always building leadership in bringing those intangibles together.
So it’s two-fold. I’ll have more of a hands-on in the leadership end of it, and more of a hands-off in the sports end of it.
Often times, with my background, the first thing people ask me is, wow, you can give the football program all sorts of input. That’s not how I operate. I operate as hands-off.
If anyone has a question as to how they believe they should coach a team, I’m a sounding board for them. I’ll listen to them.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat, if you will, and I know I don’t have all the answers.