He played and later coached at his alma mater – Oakville. He turned a perennial loser – a team that lost 38 games in a row – into a state playoff contender, going 16-4 in his second season.
And now, Berg, as the boys basketball coach at Black Hills, faces a new rebuilding project.
“I’ve always wanted to coach at this level,” said Berg, who replaced Thomas Rowswell. “I grew up watching Detlef Schrempf play at Centralia. It’s good basketball.”
Just as he did in his seven years at Oakville, Berg will coach fundamentals, teamwork and hustle. Rather than hang his winning formula on an offensive scheme, whether it’s fast paced or a slowdown, he fits his offense to his players.
“It all depends on the talent we have,” Berg said. “I tailor my stuff to the kids.”
So far this season, that means running at times. It also means setting up, at times, in a half-court offense.
“We can play both slowdown and fast,” Berg said. “We have some size. And we have some quickness.”
Junior point guard Caleb Montelongo represents the speed.
The size comes from Jared Pauly, a 6-foot-5 post, and Anye Turner, a 6-5 forward with the shooting touch to pop the outside jumper and the dribbling skills to attack the basket.
But Turner will miss the first five games of the season because he was suspended for breaking team rules. With Turner out of the lineup and with the Wolves playing a rigid schedule, they are off to an 0-4 start, losing to Hudson’s Bay, Lakes, Tyee and Timberline.
After Turner misses today’s game against Capital, he may return to practice Monday.
“He has an infectious effect on the kids. They love to be around him,” Berg said of Turner. “He expects a lot from his teammates. We just want to keep him on the right track. He can be a good player at the next level.”
Until Turner returns, Black Hills will depend on scoring by committee. Dylan Winkley, a 6-1 senior, swings from guard to forward, giving the Wolves a solid all-around player. Pauly, who is recovering from a broken leg suffered in summer football camp, can score inside. Montelongo, with his ballhandling skills, can get the ball to the open man. He can also score when needed.
“He’s a true point guard,” Berg said. “If you give him a crack, he can penetrate to the basket. He’s a full team player. He’ll give it 100 percent. He’s a true team player.”
Berg was that kind of playmaker in high school and at Centralia Community College after graduating from Oakville in 1984. After crabbing and fishing on his own boat for 17 years in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, Berg gave up crabbing during the winter and started coaching at Oakville when he saw how poorly his alma mater was doing.
Now, he’s coaching in the league he grew up watching. He’s coaching against former Centralia CC teammate Tim Brown, who is at North Thurston.
Berg’s assistant coach is Casey Doyle, who played quarterback on Tumwater’s state championship football team in 1993.
“All the parts are there,” Berg said about his team. “We’ve played well in spurts. It’s just a matter of it all coming together.”