Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Lukas Eggen January 29th, 2014
INDEPENDENCE — In 16 seasons as the women’s basketball coach at Western Oregon University, Jon Carey won almost 75 percent of his games and compiled a record of 371-127.
But as Carey became athletic director at WOU, his yearning for coaching remained.
“One of the things I discovered, and I think most people do when they get into an administrative role, you don’t get a chance for that daily feedback that you get in practice or in the classroom,” Carey said.
During his final two seasons as head coach at WOU, Carey coached Julie McDonald through her first two seasons in college until Carey stepped away in 1994. Now, nearly two decades later, the two are together again.
McDonald, who became head coach of Central High’s girls basketball team in 2012, reached out to Carey about joining her as an assistant.
But an unexpected turn of events at Western Oregon University delayed Carey from joining McDonald’s staff for a year.
“In effect, I was dragged back into the athletic job at Western,” Carey said. “When I finally got completely retired in July, I contacted Julie and said I’d be interested in joining. They had a good year and a good cohesive staff, so I didn’t know if they wanted to add anyone new, but I offered and she said, ‘yeah, let’s do it,’ and here I am.”
The Panthers are off to a strong start this season. Central lost to Philomath 52-45 on Jan. 21, but recovered to defeat Cascade 50-47 on Friday to improve its record to 12-2 overall and 1-1 in Oregon West Conference play before Tuesday night’s league game at Taft.
And the opportunity for McDonald to be reunited with her college coach has paid dividends.
“I can send (the players) down to the other end of the court and know that things are going to get done and get done well,” McDonald said. “He has great ideas and is teaching me stuff as I’m going still. I played for him for two years and I do a lot of the same stuff we did back then. He’s a great coach to have.”
While Carey was looking to get back on the sideline, he also wanted to be in a position where his role was clearly defined as the assistant, not the head, coach.
“My hope is that I can assist without getting in the way and to make it beneficial for the team and particularly for (Julie),” Carey said.
Since joining McDonald’s staff, Carey said transitioning to coaching a younger age group has been relatively easy, even if there are a few bumps along the way.
“I’ve been pleased that there’s very little drama on this team,” Carey said. “You tend to get that with high school kids. One of the differences is they don’t have quite the level of experience to draw on, so you have to be careful not to rely on previous knowledge that they may not have yet because they’re still building it.”
The last time Carey and McDonald shared the court, Carey was coaching McDonald. Now, McDonald is running the Panthers, with Carey and the rest of her staff aiding her.
“I sort of feed off her a little bit,” Carey said. “If she’s getting on kids and pushing them, then I’ll be the one to say ‘come on, you can do this,'” Carey said. “It’s the sort of ‘good cop, bad cop’ duo. Occasionally, if she’s softer, then I’ll jump on them a little bit individually.”
There may have been two decades in between when McDonald and Carey first teamed together and now, but they are again working together to help lead a new team to success.
“He knows his role and I know his role,” McDonald said. “If I need help, I’m not afraid to ask, and if he has input, he’s not afraid to give it. But knowing that I’m the head coach and he’s an assistant coach, he respects that position. It’s worked perfect.”