COLUMBIA — Tyler Clark is used to controlling the things he can.
As a basketball coach, he emphasizes a defense-first mindset because he thinks it is the easiest aspect of the game to control and develop.
Two season ago, when he was coaching the New Bloomfield boys basketball team, five of his 12 basketball players were freshmen. When injuries depleted the team, he had to rely on the inexperienced players to carry the team.
When his team finished the regular season with an 8-16 record, he focused on continuous improvement and coached the Wildcats to the semifinals of the Class 2 state tournament.
Next fall, when he becomes the first head coach of the Tolton Catholic varsity boys basketball team, he will face similar challenges with a young, inexperienced team entering its first year of varsity competition.
Because Tolton Catholic is a new high school, the school has no senior class, and the varsity team will be comprised of mostly sophomores and some juniors, Tolton Catholic athletics director Chad Masters said.
Clark said there are four measures of a successful basketball team: experience, talent, basketball aptitude and work ethic. The only one he thinks Tolton lacks is experience.
"I feel like we've got three of those four things," said Clark, who met with 16 potential basketball players at the school after being named coach at Tolton on Monday.
"If we work hard and do things the right way with the right focus as a team, we have a chance to be successful."
Tolton will play in Class 2, the same level as the team he coached at New Bloomfield. Clark has 10 years of coaching experience, but all of his past positions have been at public schools. He said one of the most exciting things about his new job is the opportunity to work at a Catholic school.
“The whole aspect of it being part of a faith-based community and that being what the school is about is the most important thing to me," Clark said. "My faith is something that’s really important to me.”
Masters said that Clark's dedication to Christianity was the top reason he saw him as a good fit for the school.
"We felt through the process that Tyler really stood out with his own faith, using the sport of basketball to shape and create better Christian leaders," Masters said.
Clark, a graduate of MU, said he's excited for the opportunity to return to Columbia with his wife and 5-year-old son.
"Out of everywhere I've ever been in the state, I've been the happiest in Columbia," he said. "I love the community. I love the size. I love the Missouri Tigers. Our church is in Columbia. That's where I want my family to be."
After stepping down from his post at New Bloomfield last December because of his son's health issues, Clark said he is excited to get back on the court with his new team.
"I'm a very confident person, and I think that confidence comes from my experience and my faith," Clark said. "I know that it helps to have some success in the past as a coach, but really, it's about the community there."
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.