Former assistant Tully Wagner takes over for Chris Parkinson, who led the Huskies from 2011-14

Photo Credit: COURTESY OF NORTH MARION SCHOOL DISTRICT - New North Marion boys basketball coach Tully Wagner will lead the Huskies after spending the past three seasons as an assistant to Chris Parkinson.The North Marion boys basketball team feature a new head coach when the Huskies take the court this winter.

After leading the team for the past three seasons, Chris Parkinson stepped down as skipper following the 2013-14 season. The Huskies didn’t have to look far for his replacement, choosing former assistant Tully Wagner as his successor.

Wagner formerly coached as an assistant at Immaculata University, a Division III school located in Philadelphia, before Parkinson brought him in as an assistant for the North Marion team in 2011. For the past three years, Wagner has taught social studies at North Marion while coaching the junior varsity team under the tutelage of Parkinson.

“Working under Chris was a great experience for me,” Wagner said. “Being able to work under him helped me grow as a coach because he was willing to listen and help me out along the way.”

Parkinson opted to step away after leading the Huskies to a third-place finish in the league and a second postseason play-in berth in three years, saying a break from coaching would be welcome after spending the last eight seasons with the North Marion basketball program.

“Both my kids are heading off to college this fall, so we’re going to be empty nesters, and I just thought it was a good time to step back, take a look at things and reevaluate,” Parkinson said. “I know I’m going to miss it this fall… (but) it’s also going to be nice to come home and eat dinner with my wife every night and not have to break down game film or anything like that.”

Wagner is set to enter the 2014-15 season with a competitive roster led by Tri-Valley First Team forward Kerry Cook and fellow senior mainstays Cuautli Verastegui, Josh Umbenhower and Klayton Pippert. Wagner’s familiarity with the players and the program, having coached most of the team at the junior varsity level at one point, will make his transition to head coach relatively seamless this November.

“I’m really lucky that my first year is going to be with guys like (that) who give us some good senior leadership,” said Wagner. “It’s going to help me out a lot to have guys who have been in the program the past two or three years.”

Wagner expects to maintain most of Parkinson’s game plan, having implemented a new offense two years ago that capitalizes on the team’s athleticism to counter the Huskies’ size disadvantage.

Photo Credit: WOODBURN INDEPENDENT ARCHIVES - Chris Parkinson spent eight seasons as a basketball coach with the Huskies, including the last three years as head coach. “We’re not very big, but we’re a talented team and I think we can get up and down the floor,” Wagner said. “It’ll be a lot of the same, just minor tweaks here and there.”

The plays will be similar this coming season, but the way in which they’re called won’t be quite the same. Parkinson contrasted his emotional personality on game day with Wagner’s even-keeled approach.

“He’s very level and very well thought out,” Parkinson said. “He’s very calculated in his moves and thinking two or three steps ahead in what he’s doing.

“He’s very well respected by the kids and the parents, and he’s got a great relationship with the kids, but also holds them accountable to do what he wants them to do,” Parkinson continued.

The continuity between the players and coaching staff will be important for a Husky team that is moving this fall from the Tri-Valley Conference to the Oregon West, a league that has been represented in the 4A state finals in each of the past three years, including last year’s championship-winning Philomath Warriors.

“We’re going into a league that’s going to be just as difficult as the league we just came out of,” Wagner said. “But I think it’s a good move for us. I think there’s going to be really good competition and I think that it’ll be something that’s beneficial for not just basketball, but all our sports in the long run.”

Wagner relishes the challenge of leading his own varsity program, a goal of his for quite some time. Parkinson’s absence allows Wagner to step into the spotlight and help the Huskies’ program grow in a new conference – though the former coach will still be around for assistance, if need be.

“I talked with (Parkinson) about it going forward,” said Wagner. “I know that he’s going to be there to support me and help me out along my first couple years on the job, which is great.”

Parkinson, in turn, left the door open to return to coaching in some capacity if he ever feels the itch to pick up a clipboard in the future. In three seasons as head coach, Parkinson’s Huskies reached the postseason twice, finished with a 31-43 record and an 11-19 record in the Tri-Valley Conference.

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