The excitement in Steve Cloran‘s voice is palpable when he talks about what it’s like to be taking over behind the bench at Cardinal O’Hara.
Cloran, who was an assistant on the Haverford College women’s staff last year with previous head coaching stops at Marple Newtown and The Haverford School, admitted that it’s not the first time he’s shown interest in being the Lions’ boss.
“It’s a job that I’ve always had my eye on over the years,” said Cloran, a 1990 O’Hara graduate. “It’s really neat how everything worked out this time around. I had some informal talks with a few people last time around, but it’s great now.”
The Lions were 8-14 last year and 2-11 in Catholic League play, including a 40-39 heartbreaking loss against rival Bonner-Prendergast in the season finale, under former coach Tim Kelly. Kelly was relieved of his duties March 19 with athletic director Steve Langley citing “different direction” as the motivation behind the move.
To make matters even tougher for Cloran, he loses the bulk of the Lions’ scoring to graduation. Second-team All-Delco pick Mike Louden (16 points per game, 25 3-pointers, 78.5 percent from the free-throw line) and Sean Havink (11.6 points per game, 38 3-pointers, 74.6 percent from the free-throw line) were the go-to scorers under Kelly and both are gone to graduation.
“I’m not able to control graduation,” Cloran said. “I’m just really happy that the opportunity it what it is.”
Cloran, though, is no stranger to hard work and even though he takes over a program that has struggled in Pennsylvania’s best league, he has his eye on ascending to the top. Cloran knows that joining the likes of Archbishop Carroll, Neumann-Goretti, Roman Catholic and St. Joseph’s Prep at the big boys’ table in the PCL won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible, either.
“Obviously, it’s going to be very challenging,” Cloran said. “But I just feel that because of my relationships in the area and the O’Hara alumni network, it’s going to be about utilizing creative ways to get people through the school and in the gym. With a little bit of luck and good timing, you can increase the excitement about the school and how you want to play the game of basketball.”
Cloran pointed to his days at Marple Newtown to show that with time, he can help turn a program around.
“At Marple Newtown, we had slow but steady progress every year,” Cloran said. “It’s not something I’m afraid of. I’m used to hard work and I love the game. You’ve got to start somewhere and I’m confident that in a few years, we’ll be able to see the fruits of our labor.”
Cloran went on to say that working under Haverford High graduate Bobbi Morgan at Haverford College helped him tremendously.
“I had a wonderful opportunity to work with a tremendous coach, teacher and human being in Bobbi Morgan,” Cloran said. “It was a phenomenal experience to work with women at the collegiate level. It was really awesome.”
There was one noticeable difference between coaching women and high school boys, too.
“(The women) listen a lot better,” Cloran quipped. “It’s a different game. It’s not an above-the-rim game. It’s a really cerebral game, which I love. You have to get the ball over halfcourt and into your offense. It’s a higher level of playing in terms of the mental side and I like to watch and teach the game that way.”
There will be plenty of opportunities to teach a young O’Hara team. Center Mark Plousis, who just finished his junior year, was the team’s third-leading scorer a year ago behind Louden and Havink at 5.8 points per game. He and Andrew Louden, Mike’s younger brother who just finished his freshman year, will be tasked with filling up the stat sheet. Andrew Louden averaged 5.6 points per game and drilled 29 3-pointers, good enough for second on the team.
It will be up to Cloran and his staff to use those two as building blocks and see who else can develop in time.