Scott Thomason wears a classic game-day outfit, and so do the members of his staff: solid colors with a coordinated tie.
He stalks the sidelines, arms crossed, barking at officials out of the side of his mouth. His snarl is that of a lion’s, fitting given his place atop the Valley Oak League’s food chain.
Under Thomason, Sierra has won four consecutive league titles and has reached the Sac-Joaquin Section finals four times, including Friday’s Division III tilt against Valley Oak League rival Weston Ranch.
With three more victories, Thomason will enter rarified air: The 300-win club.
Chris Teevan has emerged the antithesis to Thomason’s style and systematic approach to building a public-school program.
Weston Ranch’s third-year coach dresses in patterns, plaids and the occasional pull-over, and his career win total has yet to crest the 60-win threshold.
Like Thomason, Teevan never sits. But his movements are a little more manic, stomping his feet to grab attention, swigging (not sipping) from water bottles to grease the vocal chords, and talking with his hands when words aren’t enough.
On the court, Thomason and Teevan might seem like they’re miles apart in every possible measurable; perfectly cast as polar opposites in this clash of Valley Oak League titans Friday at Sleep Train Arena.
The truth is, though, Thomason and Teevan share a common thread, which may make tonight’s D-III final one of the more entertaining games in an already wild and unpredictable postseason.
That thread is more like a root, weaving and winding its way through Central Valley basketball programs, belonging to one of the most respected coaching trees in Northern California.
Thomason is, of course, the son of former University of Pacific men’s basketball coach Bob Thomason, who has become a regular face in the stands at Sierra games since retiring.
Bob Thomason coached Pacific from 1988-2013, where his son was a 3-point specialist in the late 1990s. Before that, he had a stop at Stanislaus State, where he coached another sharpshooter with City of Manteca ties.
Paul Brogan first knew Scott Thomason as “Scooter,” the Warriors’ ball boy during his junior and senior seasons at Stanislaus State in 1987-88.
The Modesto Junior College men’s basketball coach has watched with great admiration as Thomason has become “the best high school coach in the area,” turning a public school in three-horse town into a league and section heavyweight.
“There’s no question. What he’s been able to do at a public school is amazing,” Brogan said. “No disrespect to the other coaches, because there are other good coaches, but in my opinion Scott is the best.”
His reason for such praise: Like his father before him, Scott Thomason runs an air-tight program. The Thomasons pay close attention to details — from teaching mechanics and footwork to building continuity amongst staff. It all matters, and it has allowed them to consistently succeed even when the talent level drops.
“Scott and Bob have done more with a little less, whether it’s talent or athleticism,” Brogan said. “(Sierra has) talented guys now, but there are have been years where Scott has had less talent and still been successful.”
There are no illusions in a Thomason-run program. Those that want to wear the jersey must fit his system, and for players in the Sierra High program that commitment begins as freshmen.
The Class of 2015 has won three Valley Oak League championships, including two at the varsity level to complete the Timberwolves’ four-peat. Their careers began with a pact with their varsity coach: Give me your all and I’ll give you mine, and together we’ll win championships.
“Scott’s players, from Day 1 as freshmen, are doing things the way he wants them done. Same thing for Bob. If you didn’t do things exactly the way Bob wanted, you weren’t going to play,” said Brogan, who set marks for career 3-pointers and single-game scoring at Warriors Arena under Bob Thomason.
“I think the little details in a high school program make all the difference in the world. You get kids to buy into basketball, and it snowballs from there.”
Teevan’s tie to Bob Thomason coaching tree isn’t as strong, but his relationship with Brogan is.
The Beyer High graduate starred for Brogan at MJC. He later returned to Brogan’s bench as an assistant after his playing career at Stanislaus State was over.
Teevan credits Brogan for being the No. 1 influence on his coaching career. The two, teacher and student, shared a moment after Tuesday’s semifinal in the back hall of the gymnasium.
Teevan’s style is loose and free-flowing. He puts a lot of faith in point guard Jaelen Ragsdale to make the right decisions with the ball, largely because Brogan gave Teevan that same freedom.
“When you have a point guard like that, that knows everything you’re thinking and you believe in them and they believe in you,” Brogan said, “it’s amazing.”
And on Tuesday, it was.
When Weston Ranch went on its decisive run, ripping off 14 straight points to overcome a 32-31 deficit, Teevan later admitted in the that he didn’t call a single set during that run.
“It wasn’t me,” he said in the locker room afterwards.
Scott Thomason was more hands-on down the stretch in Sierra’s overtime win over Vanden, utilizing his bench and timeouts to coerce a 76-72 victory.
“Chris, he plays a different style, but his attention to detail is the same. It’s just more of an open offense,” Brogan said. “He knows what his players can do and puts them in position to be successful. That’s how Bob was. That’s how Scott is.”
Both coaches love the game of basketball, Brogan said, and use that passion as the lifeblood to their programs.
It explains the long hours, the constant care and their reservations in this final-round game.
“Both have a love for the game and love their players, and they’re super competitive,” Brogan said.
“If they were both 20 and you gave them a ball and a court, it would be game on.”
Oh, it still is. Don’t be fooled by the shirts and ties.