Rob Belegrin says his heart is the “No. 1” reason he wants to see Clay basketball
competitive with the best in the City League.
This is his dream job, and he wants to succeed at it.
Belegrin was a 5-10, 160-pound point guard for the Eagles under Coach Doug Dippman. He 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 before taking the helm this season.
"This is my dream job," Belegrin said. "I've always wanted it since I played there and when I started coaching."
The fact that Belegrin is now 37-years-old and has a wife and two children at home will not stop him from putting in the time when its needed.
“I’m 100 percent involved right now. That’s about a 70-hour work week for me, and this has been a ton of energy and a ton of time, but it’s got to get started,”What is he involved with other than coaching the varsity? Rebuilding Oregon’s youth basketball program — something he and Guerrero started one year ago.
Last year, Guerrero, Belegrin, Rod Achter and Chris Oberdick, as well as varsity and junior varsity players, held a biddy program for the first time in several years. It wasn’t as intense as this year’s program, but it was a start.
"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,” Belegrin promised just as he was named coach in May, 2009.
"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."
Guerrero responded, "Rob will do a great job."
This year’s Clay biddy program been revamped again to model Perrysburg’s program. Why not? The Yellow Jackets have consistently been in the hunt for a Northern Lakes League championship year-in and year-out.
This year’s program has 126 youth in grades 2-6 participating in practices two to three days a week, and then playing games on Sundays.
“We play at the high school, and we try to assign any space available within Wynn, Coy, and Jerusalem. The school district has been great. So far it’s worked out well. Everyone seems willing to make this work and that’s been huge,” Belegrin said.
There are about 30 youth in each grade, with 50 players participating from the fourth grade. The program started November 2 and will continue through January 31.
“From that, we’ve established four travel teams to play in various travel tournaments,” Belegrin said.
This year, there are two fourth grade travel teams, one fifth grade team, and one sixth grade team.
“From there, the travel teams will continue to play after the January 31st date when house leagues are done, and they probably have a good eight-tournament schedule and next year we’re looking to take that a little further as well,” Belegrin said. “So that’s been a part of the work we’ve been doing. To be honest, we’re modeling it after what Perrysburg does.”
To have over 100 youth participating in the biddy program’s first full-blown year is great, Belegrin says. Next year, he wants to see more.
“That’s pretty good numbers so far,” Belegrin said. “It’s the first year so there have been some bumps but we’re working through it.
“Everyone wants things to run exactly smooth the first year, but the good news is we’re pressing on. We’re not listening to the bad comments and working with the positive. I think we have strong leadership — myself and Steve Finch. He’s been great. He’s been a huge asset to me and we have some great guys who have volunteered to coach that know the game — they are not just volunteers.”
Belegrin said Steve and Chrissy Finch are “basically” the league commissioners, or the husband and wife team behind the organization of the program.
Steve and Chrissy Finch also played basketball at Clay. Chrissy graduated in 1990 and her husband got his diploma a year later.
Nolan Finch, their third-grade son, told The Press last year that he and his friends believe it will pay off when they are in high school and have to face the likes of St. John’s Jesuit, Libbey, Scott, and Waite on the court.
"When I'm older, I'll be better," he said. "It will be more fun and I will be winning more. I like the pick-and-roll (drill). I like it when you dribble and do a layup. It's more fun to do it with the other kids."