Sallisaw boys basketball coach coming home to Heavener

HEAVENER — An old saying goes, “You can't go home again.” Jeff Chronister begs to differ.Chronister, who was coaching the Sallisaw Black Diamonds basketball team, took over the Heavener Wolves' coaching duties in June, replacing Scott Gregory — who became the Poteau Lady Pirates basketball coach in May.Needless to say, it's been a unique homecoming for Chronister.“That had something to do with it,” Chronister said about why he became an candidate for the job. “It's been a rather unique experience. Since I took the job, I've been warmly received. It's interesting to come back to a place where you walked the halls.”However, homecoming was secondary reason for Chronister to throw his hat into the ring.“I think ever since Coach (Greg) Nichols was here, Heavener has increasingly become a basketball place. More and more, basketball is becoming important here. I just thought it was a better job and better opportunity to coach at a place where players are actually basketball players — and players who care about basketball.”Also, knowing who was coming back for the 2012-13 season, and beyond, also piqued Chronister's interest.“Coaches are different, no matter who they are. They try to come in and establish what they want the program to be like. They like to put their imprint on things. I know that Coach Gregory did not leave the cupboard bare. They are players here who can play.“You would like to think you can go somewhere and have some success. That's my goal. The skill level (of the players) is here. The talent level is here. It seems to be that, since the summer league, that the players' commitment level is here, too. I've gotten the commitment from the administration, and the community is here, also. You would like to think that you can come in here and have some kind of success in this kind of environment.”By coming in June as Chronister did, he was able to participate with the Wolves in the LeFlore County Summer League, which took place all month long. According to the new coach, that proved instrumental for all.“It was absolutely invaluable,” Chronister said. “Summer league basketball is such a great tool, especially if you're new. You get a chance to know the players, and let them know what kind of expectations you have of them. It give them a chance to see what they're going to get from you as coach. I was extremely pleased during the summer. I thought we played awfully hard. I was pleased with our attendance level. We played about 23 games at various places after I got here. I got a good chance to see just what the possibilities are. Summer league is good for a couple of things. You're going to see what you're attitude is going to be like for the upcoming season, and what the kids' work ethics are going to be like. I was really pleased with all of that with them.”Now all that's left is to get ready for the 2012-13 season.“We'll get started doing some things on the first day of school (Aug. 20) to work toward the season,” Chronister said. “The guys who are returning got a lot of playing time last year, and our expectations are really high. So, we're all anxious to get started.”