FRILLS CORNERS, Pa. – Former Clarion University basketball player and current assistant coach Ewing Moussa has accepted the position as the new head coach for boys basketball at North Clarion.
Moussa, who is replacing Andy Bish, has extensive youth basketball coaching experience in both his hometown of Washington D.C. and with the renowned Rising Stars AAU basketball program in Clarion. D9Sports.com had the chance to catch up with Moussa, who is eager and excited to begin his head coaching career with North Clarion.
Moussa did his due diligence before taking the position, speaking with local basketball coaches to learn more about the basketball culture at North Clarion. Strong recommendations from Clarion University assistant coach Jermaine Cooper and Rising Stars coach Rogers Laugand made the decision a lot easier for Moussa:
“[Coach Laugand] said ‘I don’t think there would be a better job for you than the one at North Clarion, just because of the people up there. They’re good people, first and foremost.’”
Moussa is eager to get to work.
“I [am] excited that North Clarion was willing to give me the opportunity to be able to lead that program as a young coach. That excitement still hasn’t worn out for me, and I still wake up every day excited and ready to get to work,” he said.
Moussa isn’t a new face for some of the North Clarion roster, as he has already coached some current and past Wolves’ players at the AAU level.
“[Coaching at Rising Stars] was nice as I got to see the group of guys who just finished [at North Clarion], and then I also got to coach the guys who are coming in. It’s nice having those relationships going into it and not having a completely new team to take over.”
Moussa’s prior relationships with some of North Clarion’s squad will be key in ensuring a fluid coaching transition amidst the pandemic, the defining hurdle for basketball squads around the nation in 2020.
The pandemic has forced coaches to reevaluate how they coach their teams, and Moussa is no exception.
“You don’t realize how many drills you do in which everybody is touching the ball. Now, you have to go from teaching kids to spread the ball and share the ball to saying: ‘Alright everyone, you have your own ball, and this is what you’re doing today.’ It took some getting creative to find different ways to make things work as a team.”
Despite missing out on team-building opportunities, Moussa believes that both the players and coaching staff are doing everything in their power to have a successful season.
Prior to coaching Rising Stars, Moussa’s previous coaching experience came at the collegiate level with Clarion University and for high-level AAU teams in the D.C. area where he encouraged a fast-paced style that suited the top-notch skill and athleticism of his players. Coming to a smaller area where basketball is less prominent has forced Moussa to become more flexible in his coaching philosophy, a change that has allowed him to become a better overall coach.
“I came in with [a certain] philosophy, and I realized that one of the lessons I’ve had to learn early is that there has to be some sort of middle ground between how I want to play and what my team is able to do. [I learned] how far I can push [the players] and how much I have to adjust myself for what they are able to do.”
Becoming adaptable is an important trait for any head coach, and Moussa is humble enough to realize his preferred fast-paced, high-flying style is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Moussa does want his North Clarion team to focus on dictating the pace of play.
“Typically, my style of play is fast with change[s] of pace. So, it’s fast fast fast, slow things down a little bit, and then go a little faster. In my opinion, anyone can adjust when things are moving at a certain pace, [but] it’s harder for people to adjust to things on the fly. My philosophy has always been that if you play fast enough, you don’t give somebody time [to think] until it’s too late, and if you change paces, you force the [opposition] to make [bad] decisions, as well.”
Moussa resides in Lucinda, a small town that is the complete opposite of his childhood home in Washington D.C. Moussa is familiar and friendly with almost everyone in his local community, a sense of belonging that has him enjoying life in rural western Pennsylvania.
“I came to school here, and my first few months here I was miserable – eight years later I’m still here. What I like here that I didn’t have in D.C. is things are slow here. People have time to talk, you get to know everyone, and you know the conversations aren’t superficial. They are genuine conversations, and you know when someone asks you how you are doing, you know that they care about how you’re doing.”
Moussa is especially thankful for the support given to him and his partner, Rachel, as they begin to start a family.
“Everyone genuinely wants to help each other. For the past three or four months, the community has gone above and beyond for Rachel and I. We’re expecting our first child, and we talked about how crazy it is to be somewhere where we can start a family and where we are part of an actual, true community. I feel like that’s what this area is. It’s a community in every sense of the word.”
As Moussa takes the reigns at North Clarion, he appreciates the more laid-back pace of local area basketball when compared to the game in D.C.
“It’s a cutthroat world [in D.C.],” said Moussa. “It’s nice to come here and really watch things slow down and have kids who are playing just to have fun. Obviously, they still want to win and play hard, but there is no added burden to it. There are the kids who want to play at the next level who [still] put in all the extra work, but they don’t have the weight of the world on their shoulders. They can just play and have fun.”
Moussa wants his team to absorb his preferred style of play but acknowledges that the process may take time.
“We need our guys to understand that learning a new style is a process and that it’s not going to happen overnight.”
According to Moussa, buying into the process will allow for growth and the establishment of a team identity.
“It is important to understand our style of play and know what we do before knowing what everyone else does. If we’re able to know our identity as a team, embrace our identity, and know what we do well, then tracking our weaknesses is going to be a lot easier, and we will be able to play to our strengths.”
Moussa’s realistic expectations and emphasis on identity should allow North Clarion to form a foundation for lasting success.
The Wolves finished the 2019-20 season with a 14-9 record.