Rob Belegrin has a unique way of describing himself - as a former athlete and as a basketball coach.
"I've always been a grinder, even when I played," said Belegrin, 37, the new head boys’ basketball coach at Clay.
Belegrin was a 5-10, 160-pound point guard for the Eagles under coach Doug Dippman. He graduated in 1990 and went on to play baseball (shortstop/second base) at Ferris State University before transferring to Siena Heights College.
Belegrin replaces Joe Guerrero, who resigned following the 2008-09 season after 15 years as the Eagles' coach. Belegrin coached Clay's freshman boys’ team for six years and the junior varsity team for six years.
He was Guerrero's varsity assistant last season.
"This is my dream job," Belegrin said. "I've always wanted it since I played there and when I started coaching."
Belegrin said his first priorities are to "bring intensity" back into the Clay program and focus on the future.
"We have good parts to this (program) next year," he said. "We have no experience at all, but I believe the parts are better than what we had last year. Next year we have 'bigs' and we have guards who can stop the ball. We're going to be physical and we're going to grind. We're going to give a physical effort, and hopefully we win those close games at the end.
"I'm focused on fifth grade right now. By next summer I want to see a Steve Mix team or a travel team starting in the third grade through sixth grade. We will focus on that very hard, to bring back basketball in Oregon. I don't say that in any disrespect to what Joe has done. I appreciated the opportunity he's given me. He's always asked for my opinion on things and I appreciate that tremendously. Hopefully, one day I can be categorized in the same class that he is portrayed."
Said Guerrero, "Rob will do a great job."
Belegrin was named the Eagles' new coach on May 5. Clay Athletic Director Mike Donnelly said "a handful" of internal candidates were interviewed for the job. He said the fact that Belegrin is a Clay alum played a role in the school's decision.
"He also was very enthusiastic," Donnelly said. "He has a direction he wants to go. He's a strong believer in his philosophy and he's going to put in the time and effort needed to turn the program around ... He's gone about making sure we get into the elementary schools and the junior highs about reshaping the basketball program."
Belegrin said he is bringing Karl Knierim, Clay's baseball coach, back into the basketball program as a varsity assistant. Knierim was an assistant under Dippman. Rod Achter will remain as the jayvee boys coach.
Belegrin said he knows there is a lot of work to be done, but he relishes the challenge.
"It's a dream job," he said, "and I don't want this dream to go away."