B ill Rivest is a quiet man.
If you walked into the Lake Linden-Hubbell girls practice, you would not hear the sound of a typical coach yelling out instructions. Rather, you would hear the squeaking of the shoes, the balls hitting the floor and the team communicating amongst themselves.
No yelling. No wild gestures. No gimmicks. Just basketball.
Rivest brings a hard-nosed, disciplined mentality to a program that has not had a district title since 2013 or much success in the regular season.
How do you turn around a program so desperate for success?
“We have to focus on the fundamentals,” Rivest said. “I’m not sure what they did in previous years here, but my background has been that I’d like to play a disciplined, fast-paced game.”
Rivest’s fundamental approach does not skip any steps, or take any skill for granted. Instead, his team dribbled down and backs on the court, focusing on keeping their eyes off of the floor. This drill, common in the younger age levels, had a new twist. Goggles that covered the lower portion of the eyes were worn by each girl, not allowing them to see the ball out of their peripherals.
An unconventional approach, but it is one that is necessary to build up this year’s team.
“We do a lot of drill work in practice,” he said. “Being a first-year coach here at Lake Linden, the kids are new to me, and I am new to them. They’re not used to my expectations, but we will be patient, keep focusing, and we will get better.”
Rivest’s disciplined background can be traced back to his days as a high school administrator. He left a brief, yet, successful coaching career at Houghton to pursue his career as a principal and athletic director, which he has just recently retired from. In his time at Houghton, Rivest led the boys basketball team to its first conference championship in 15 years and later led them to back-to-back district title wins. After 30 years away from the sideline, he decided now was the time to get back into coaching.
“It was an opportunity for me here, and I am fortunate enough to be offered the job. I am excited to be here.” Rivest said. “We have a great group of kids, they seem willing to work hard, and we are going to have some success down the road.”
Success can be a subjective term. To some, it is a .500 season, to others, it is an undefeated season. However, to a team that went 5-16 in the past season, any kind of improvements will be welcome to Rivest and his squad.
“Success does not always equate to wins and losses. I understand that people evaluate my job by wins and losses, but as long as I see the growth that we need to have, we are going to have a successful season,” he said.
To attain this success, Rivest and the Lakes plan to play a quick-tempo style of basketball that focuses on defense and the use of their athletic roster. The Lakes have a strong core of athletic girls, with many of them members of the Division III UP track and field championship team. How they are utilized will be key to just how far the Lakes will go this season.
“We are going to try to push the ball up the floor, and we are going to focus on defense and our fundamentals, and hopefully we will be ready to compete come tournament time,” Rivest said.
“We’ll keep focusing and we’ll get better as the season goes on, and hopefully by tournament time, we’re in a position where they’re comfortable with what they know, what the expectations are, the fundamentals should grow significantly, and we hope to be able to challenge anybody at district time.”