Knoch graduate building Pine-Richland girls program

| Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, 6:09 p.m.

Cliff Foster moved into the Pine-Richland School District 10 years ago but never thought about coaching high school girls basketball.

That was until he received a phone call from the soon-to-be ex-Pine-Richland girls coach Molly Copple before last season. She suggested Foster be her replacement and the idea blossomed for Foster, a former standout guard at Knoch.

“She called me and said she was moving to Detroit and couldn't think of anyone else that she would want to take over,” Foster said. “I was shocked. It came out of nowhere. It was something that I never thought about. I was just being a dad at the time.”

Foster, who graduated from Knoch in 2000, came to the conclusion that it was a perfect fit for him.

He is now in his second year coaching the Rams. It was tough sledding for him in the first season as his team finished with a 5-17 record. He entered that season with little experience among his current players.

“It's really just kind of a fresh start,” he said. “It's also about rebuilding the culture, just the content of mediocrity which is a Pine-Richland thing. That's what I'm trying to change and Josh Shoop, our athletic director, is trying to change from his seat.”

Shoop is the former athletic director at Knoch who left to take the same position at Pine-Richland in the summer of 2012. Having Shoop as an athletic director made Foster even more comfortable when he accepted the position.

Foster's coaching philosophy is simple: utilize team speed and play up-tempo basketball.

It has paid off this season. Pine-Richland started the season with four consecutive wins and took a 5-3 mark into the Mars Holiday Tournament late last week.

Through all of the stress that comes with being a head coach, finding small details to enjoy can be essential to a long and lengthy tenure. The relationships Foster develops with his players and parents are what he enjoys most about coaching.

“I've always been a caretaker as a father and husband,” he said. “I like to take care of people, and the high school position is a platform for that.”

Foster had success against Pine-Richland as a player. During his senior year, he knocked down a buzz-beater to beat Pine-Richland. He averaged 20 points per game his senior year. He scored 41 points against Mohawk.

As a college basketball player at La Roche College, he became the all-time leader in assists (636) and steals (238). He is a member of the Redhawks' Sports Hall of Fame.

“Consistency is one of the greatest lack of talents,” Foster said. “People can't stay consistent with things, the idea of sticking with a plan for as long as it takes. It won't take that long for us, we're close to turning the corner.”

D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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