When Andy Ground took over as Tustin’s varsity basketball coach this season, he knew all the players by name. He had his own key to the gymnasium. He was well aware of the Tillers’ top rivals and their top players.
After five seasons as a junior varsity coach, familiarity with the Tustin basketball program was not a problem.
But Ground wasn’t ready for:
* Grade checks for all 60 players in Tustin’s program.
* Scheduling--buses, games, tournaments, practices, you name it.
* Booster club meetings.
* Shoe contracts.
Suddenly, Ground wasn’t just a basketball coach anymore; he was an administrator. When things needed to be handled, he was the man responsible.
“It’s been a real change,” he said. “I’m not in charge of one team anymore. I’m in charge of four.”
In the old days, Ground would show up for practice, varsity Coach Tom McCluskey would hand him a workout schedule, they would confer for a few moments, then the varsity and junior varsity would practice. At the end of three hours or so, Ground would say goodby and head for home.
Now, he’s the one spending extra hours planning practices and instructing lower-level coaches. Often, he’s the last one out of the gym.
When McCluskey left Tustin to take an assistant coaching position at Saddleback College, all the little details fell to Ground. A former point guard at Saddleback College and Hawaii Hilo, Ground, 30, was not dreaming of the day he’d become a head coach.
In fact, he began thinking about a varsity job only after “Tom asked me to take over for him.”
Don’t get Ground wrong, though. He’s happy to be in charge of one of Orange County’s most successful programs.
Last season, Tustin reached the semifinals of the Southern Section Division II-AA playoffs before losing to Glendora, the eventual champion, 57-55. Two years ago, Tustin won the division championship and went on to take the State title.
Maintaining that high level of success appears to be Ground’s most difficult task. Tradition is not something he has had to develop and instill in his players.
He need only look at former Tustin assistant Tom Gorrell, in his first season at Cypress, to see someone starting from scratch.
“It’s not been a big adjustment for me because I’ve been with (McCluskey) for five years,” Ground said. "(Gorrell’s) situation is a lot more difficult, I’d imagine. He’s doing a great job over there.”
In addition to knowing all the players, Ground said his age is a big help.
“My playing days weren’t all that long ago,” he said. “I took one season off from coaching to play in Germany in 1989-90, so I can relate to them probably a little better.
“They’re a fun group of kids. From the freshmen to the varsity, they’re all good kids.”
Fun or not, Ground now has to handle all their needs.
“Oh, yeah, I’m really well organized now,” he said. “I’m working on schedules, making sure the kids are out of class on time. I’m working with the booster club and preparing media guides. We went with Converse, so I had to work on the shoe contract.”
Oh, and he’s actually found time to coach a little basketball.