The Saddleback men’s basketball team has been nothing short of stellar in recent years, continuously making the playoffs and earning two state championships. The success is attributed to the players and coaches alike, but the man who’s been at the helm of these teams is head coach Andy Ground.
Ground started as the assistant coach for seven years before becoming head coach of the Gauchos in 2008. In his first season as head coach, Ground led Saddleback to the state championship and taking second place. The ensuing year the Gauchos won the 2010 state championship. After making the postseason every year since, last season Saddleback regained the spot atop the podium becoming the 2015 state champions.
Saddleback College athletics competes in the Orange Empire Conference, one of nine other community colleges in the greater Southern California area.
Ground has achieved great success at Saddleback and has recently received the 2015 Orange Empire Male Sport Coach of the Year award.
Ground remains modest and attributes his success to the players and coaching staff around him.
“It’s a very humbling feeling,” Ground said. “It’s about the players and their commitment.”
Ground is also the recipient of four consecutive men’s basketball coach of the year awards and is very gracious for all the awards he has received.
“I’m humbled by all of them, they are no different from others I have received,” Ground said.
The players under Ground have been recipients of several accomplishments. A large number of Ground’s players have moved on to four-year universities.
Last season’s sophomore center Conor Clifford was awarded the Orange Empire Conference MVP and CCCAA (California Community College Athletic Association) player of the year. Freshmen guard Dusty Baker was named the state tournament MVP.
A season ago, the men’s basketball team had an average 2.83 GPA. Ground gives credit to Saddleback College’s and the resources available for his athletes.
“It’s the resources available at Saddleback. They’ve given student athletes the tools to become successful students,” said Ground.
This year Ground and the Gauchos will make a push to defend their state championship. A tall task in a tough conference, but with coach Ground in control it’s a goal that can be accomplished.
Saddleback will start the 2015-16 season on Nov. 6 against West Valley College.