By Aubreigh Heck / Online Editor
On April 23, Tommy DeSalme found himself in the Hutchinson Sports Arena during the NJCAA tournament championship game coaching Cowley. After coaching Cowley in the Sports Arena a multitude of times, DeSalme switched benches and is now the Blue Dragons men’s basketball head coach.
Following Steve Eck’s retirement, HutchCC hired DeSalme on May 6.
DeSalme, who has now twice followed Eck, to Cowley and now Hutchinson, has nothing but the utmost respect for the Blue Dragons former coach, who coached the Blue Dragons to a pair of NJCAA national championship games, winning the program’s third title in 2017.
“He’s a hall of famer, I have a ton of respect for everything he’s done and everywhere he’s been. Hopefully, we can have the same type of success that he had,” DeSalme said. “We go about it different ways, our styles are different, but a lot of the key things that all coaches talk about are the same.
“I think it helps that I’ve followed him before. He’s a winning coach wherever he’s been, and I have the utmost respect for him, and I hope we can continue the success he’s had here.”
DeSalme is no stranger to success, posting a 249-143 record with Cowley. The secret of said success could be his coaching philosophy, as DeSalme only wants one thing from his players.
“All I’ve ever wanted is, ‘Can we play as hard as we can, and will we be great teammates with each other?’ Style of play changes a lot, and sometimes it changes in the middle of the year,” DeSalme said. “I want our players to play as hard as they can every single day, be a great teammate, and eliminate the fear and the doubt. Not worrying about the stakes, just worrying about playing really hard, and playing for each other.”
DeSalme said previously that there was only one place he would have left Cowley for, that place being Hutch.
His reasoning? DeSalme considers coaching the Blue Dragons a, “Blue-blood job,” and while he enjoyed his time in Cowley, HutchCC is a special place.
“You want to coach at a place that has high expectations, and resources. What a place to be able to recruit to as well. It’s a beautiful campus, the facilities, everything is top notch,” DeSalme said.
With no returning Blue Dragons from the previous season, DeSalme’s team will have to navigate their new school together.
“I have high expectations of them, we’re just really new. Eleven new guys in a new area for them,” DeSalme said.
Kaimen Lennox, a sophomore from Kansas City, said he was excited to play in DeSalme’s program. At Cowley, DeSalme’s teams were known for full-court pressure, getting turnovers, hitting 3-pointers and scoring in triple digits frequently.
“It’s great, and it gets a lot of exposure,” Lennox said, “It’s a grind, getting better everyday and getting closer as a team.”
In the previous season, the Blue Dragons lost the NJCAA tournament in the second round, while DeSalme’s team was the runner-up, falling in the title game to Coffeyville.
This season, DeSalme wants to take it one step at a time.
“Obviously everyone wants to win the national title, but are you willing to put that true work in?” DeSalme said. “What will you give to your teammates? What kind of effort will you give on a daily basis, or a possession basis? Those things matter, and if you take care of those things you’re going to put yourself in a position to win championships.”
According to DeSalme, in order to win a championship you have to be dedicated, talented and lucky.
“I don’t get caught up in thinking about the championship, because then it’s all you worry about. You get off track sometimes. You have to think, ‘How great can we be today with our effort and mentality?’” DeSalme said.
Besides focusing on basketball, DeSalme enjoys the hometown feel that Hutchinson provides him.
“Hutch reminds me of the town I grew up in Bartlesville, Okla., a town of about 40,000 people,” DeSalme said. “There’s lots of things to do, but it’s also small where you have that small-town feel. I like everything about it. The people are so kind, and generous and they wanna support all things Hutch, whether it’s high school or community college.”
And for the supporters, DeSalme has a request this season,
“We as a team have a responsibility to put a product out there that people want to come watch. Come out in droves, and come support,” DeSalme said.
The Blue Dragons opened the season yesterday against Fort Scott at the Sports Arena, and won with a final score of 122-95.