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Rolling Up His Sleeves: New Stevens Coach Ready to Rebuild Cardinals

  • Ross Dole, the new coach of the Stevens High girls basketball team, works to motivate his team during practice in Claremont yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Ross Dole, the new coach of the Stevens High girls basketball team, works to motivate his team during practice in Claremont yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Stevens girls basketball coach Ross Dole works through a play with his team during practice yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    Stevens girls basketball coach Ross Dole works through a play with his team during practice yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ross Dole, the new coach of the Stevens High girls basketball team, works to motivate his team during practice in Claremont yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)
  • Stevens girls basketball coach Ross Dole works through a play with his team during practice yesterday. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Claremont — Ross Dole is an optimist. He has to be.

After all, he is taking over a Stevens High girls basketball program that was under .500 (8-10) last season and is inheriting a roster that has only an occasional starter from a year ago. Still, he can see through all the roadblocks that lie ahead and he feels that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train.

“You know, I’m a competitive guy and I really don’t like to lose,” Dole said. “At the same time, I have to be realistic and understand the situation.”

The situation is clear in that this will likely not be the first Stevens girls basketball team since 1985 to win a state championship.

“I know it’s very much a rebuilding year, but I still want to win every game, ” Dole said.

Dole, 45, has been around the basketball world for a while. He started coaching his daughter Richelle, a 1,000-point scorer in high school who graduated last year, in the third grade. He moved up the ladder to the middle school and spent the last three years helping out Carl Desilets, who resigned as the girls varsity coach after last season.

Dole has also spent a lot of time with Ed Tenney, the highly-successful former coach of the Kearsarge girls and the present coach of the Sunapee boys. Tenney and Dole teamed up to coach AAU basketball.

“I still call Ed a lot and consider him my mentor,” said Dole, who said he would like to get a Claremont team into AAU basketball next summer.

But first things first. The Cardinals opened the season with a loss to Hillsborough-Deering, and with the likes of Hopkinton, Fall Mountain, Mascoma, Conant and Windsor on the schedule, the road ahead is filled with potholes. Dole would some day like to get his teams playing the Windsor program.

“I like that in your face defense,” he said. “ I would like teams that are playing us to know a little fear — that we’re the aggressor. That whomever we are playing that they can’t just run up and down the court without being challenged.”

In addition to having an inexperienced team, this year’s squad will have the added responsibility of learning a new system. Under Desilets, the Cardinals played a 2-3 pack-it-in defense, but Dole is a man-to-man guy. Offensively, the Cardinals of the past used a lot of set plays, but Dole like the up-tempo style of play.

“I want them to read and react until it becomes natural for them,” he said. “I’m about getting easy baskets and not passing the ball if there is nobody to pass to. Read and react.”

Dole is looking at this challenge knowing that it is going to take time to get all the pieces in place. He plans of working with the youth programs sponsored by the Goodwin Center, and has already spoken to the coaches at the Claremont Middle School to explain how he would like things done.

Not only are there the physical aspects of the program that Dole has to deal with, he also knows that there has been a long trend of losing seasons and players that haven’t always played up to their potential.

“We need to have these girls think about winning, playing with pride and hustling on and off the court,“ Dole said. “We need to take pride in what we do and play hard all the time. No letting up no matter what the score is.”

Dole has been a gym rat and made his daughters’ gym rats (daughter Kirsten is on this year’s team) as well, dragging them along from gym to gym.

“I drive my wife crazy thinking and talking about basketball all the time,” Dole said. “I’ll be lying in bed thinking new plays or what do with the players. Even in the summertime.”

A lot of Stevens girls play just one, and Dole would like to see more multisport athletes.

“I’ve been talking to Tom Belaire (girls soccer coach) about this and we’re both going to trying to get some girls to branch out,” Dole said. “There used to be a lot of three-sport girls around here. We need to get back to that.”

Stevens has its home opener tonight against Hopkinton.