Coach Clink: Recruiting winners, making champions


Head coach Greg Clink designs a play in the CCAA playoffs against Cal State L.A. Photo credit: Jordan Olesen

They say “Once a Chico State Wildcat, always a Chico State Wildcat.”

Chico State men’s basketball head coach Greg Clink lives the popular motto to the max as a former player turned head coach for the ‘Cats. Twenty-four years ago, Clink was in his first year as a player for the men’s basketball team at Chico State. That team would go on to win three conference titles, make the trip to the NCAA West Regional tournament and name him as the “Most Inspirational Player” during his senior year.

While Clink was not a starter on the talented 1992-1995 teams after transferring from Gavalan College, his time playing with the Wildcats would shape his future and ultimately lead him back to Chico State. He would replace his former head coach, Puck Smith as the new head coach of a struggling ‘Cats program in 2008.

“It’s a journey and something that as a 19-year-old just hoping that I got a chance to make the team, to now leading the team to championships, it’s hard to really comprehend sometimes,” Clink said.

Head coach Greg Clinkcoaches during a CCAA playoff game against Cal State L.A. Photo credit: Jordan Olesen

According to Chico State Athletics, Clink’s accomplishments include getting the first post-season win in 20 years, winning the first CCAA title in program history, the most regular season wins in 101 years of Chico State basketball, the highest national ranking in program history and four consecutive NCAA Championship playoff berths.

On top of all that, Clink was named the CCAA Coach of the Year for the second year in a the row, his third time winning the award in the past five years. Clink had his best career coaching start with the Wildcats, winning 20 of their first 24 regular season games.

Clink is much more than a basketball coach for the young men of the Wildcat team. He coaches life lessons and skills beyond the hardwood floor of Acker Gym.

“The thing that stands out the most (about Clink) is that he cares about the wins and losses and how you improve as a player, but he also cares about you as a person as well,” said senior veteran Drew Kitchens. “He is fiery, one of the most focused and intense guys I have ever met in my entire life.”

Head coach Greg Clink motivates his team during the CCAA playoff game against Cal State L.A. Photo credit: Jordan Olesen

The unprecedented success Clink has achieved with the Wildcats has never been seen before. While he has taken the Wildcats to new heights, there is more to his approach to basketball than just winning games Clink said.

“We are obviously trying to win as many games as we can, but we are using that vehicle to try and teach them how to succeed in life. How to get an education, how to use that education, how to work toward a common goal, how to handle adversity,” Clink said. “And this program is the avenue that we use to teach those lessons.”

Head coach Greg Clink instructs his team in the CCAA playoffs on March 1. Photo credit: Jordan Olesen

After two seasons at the Division I program at Fresno State, transfer senior forward Tanner Giddings believes that Clink’s character and coaching style transfers into success on and off the court.

“When we are off the court and back into the locker room we are like brothers. He instills that in us quite a bit,” Giddings said.

While the No. 1 ranked Chico State men’s basketball team was upset in the first round of CCAA playoffs by Cal State L.A. 54-27 in their worst loss of the year, Clink and the ‘Cats have made their fifth NCAA tournament in a row. They were given the No. 7 overall seed and will be facing the No. 2 overall seed UC San Diego on Friday, March 11.

“I love these guys and I care about them. We work really hard to recruit not just good basketball players, but great people who will buy into something bigger than themselves. That’s what we have created here.

“When you get a group of great guys, you end up loving them and caring about them,” Clink said. “We recruit winners and try to turn them into champions in basketball and in life.”

Lars Gustafson can be reached at [email protected] or @larsonsports on Twitter.