WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Long before he arrived on the Whitman College campus, assistant women's basketball coach Clint Froke was piling up coaching experience. Froke, now in his 15th season as an assistant coach at Whitman, got his start in the family backyard in Deer Lodge, Montana, tutoring his younger sister Connie.
"Being two years old than my sister, it was my responsibility to teach her the game," Froke remembers. "Little did I know that she would go further than anyone expected."
But more about his sister's road to stardom later. In the beginning, before the two siblings could shoot hoops at all, they needed the proper equipment.
"It was the mid-1960s and we got our mom to order a rubber `Charlie Tuna' basketball. It was the kind you get by sending in several can wrappers and a few bucks. We proceeded to wear out that ball in a matter of weeks. For me, it was the spark that lit a fire that will not go out."
In the mid-1970s Clint and Connie met Ron Kennedy, who may still be coaching, somewhere. "Ron was about 10 years older and took on the job of coaching us on the old cement court behind the high school," Froke said. "That was a regular meeting spot for several years and loomed large in my sister's success as an all-state player her last two years of high school and as an NAIA All-American at Montana Tech."
In the meantime, in 1980, Froke was freshman walk-on at National College in Rapid City, South Dakota. He made the team.
"At the end of my four-year collegiate career my greatest recognition came from teammates who agreed I was the one player they did not want to play against in practice," he said. "If I wasn't going to be one of the starting five I was determined to make it my personal crusade to make my teammates better."
He received the Maverick Award for hustle and inspiration. "I didn't know it at the time but I think my college days were the real start of my coaching career," he said.
Froke spent his first dozen coaching seasons at Whitman as an assistant in the women's basketball program, then switched to the men's program for two seasons. He returned to the women's program prior to the 1998-99 season.
Froke, a computer operator in Whitman's office of computer services, understands the demanding academic pressures facing Whitman athletes. "We ask a lot from our athletes, and time after time they come through in the classroom and on the court. Our graduation rate is among the best in the nation. That is our most rewarding statistic."