CHATHAM, NJ - Entering his 30th year as the Chatham boys basketball coach, Todd Ervin has won 66 percent of the games he's coached and compiled 487 career wins. And he's done it with a simple approach.
"We have to defend, take care of the ball and get good shots," Ervin said. "Pretty simple. Doing it is not that simple."
Ervin is coming off a season in which the Cougars made the simple look hard. Chatham won its season opener and its final game, but in between the Cougars did a lot of losing, finishing 8-17 and failing to qualify for the state tournament.
"I don't think they forgot last year, so I don't need to bring it up," Ervin said. "A lot of it had to do with inexperience. We were in so many games where we didn't handle it right at the end. Turnovers, bad shots, bad decisions.
"We've got talent, the question is are they all on the same page and are they all going in the same direction. We don't really have that right now."
Ervin will get to see how the chemistry looks at 7 p.m. Friday when Chatham opens the 2019-2020 season with a road game against Pope John in Sparta.
Two seniors, Andrew Bergman and E.J. Leskauskas are the top returning scorers from last season and they could be the key to a good start. The 6-3 Bergman led the Cougars with 223 points and 13.1 scoring average, hitting for double-digit points in 14 games.
But Bergman has missed all the preseason scrimmages with a back problem and he's just getting back into game shape.
"We just have to keep working and trying to get better every day" Bergman said. "I know I'm trying to get better every day."
The 6-4 Leskauskas dropped in 10.7 ppg. last season and he's joined on the varsity by his freshman brother, Ryan, who stands 6-3.
"We've had some good spots in scrimmages, but our offense has been very stagnant," E.J. Leskauskas said. "The chemistry is just not there yet. Last year, everyone tried to play hero ball and it didn't work. We need to keep the offense moving and play more as a team."
As a sophomore, Leskauskas played on a team that featured senior guards Jack Rooney and Mac Bredahl, who led the Cougars to the Morris County Championship and all the way to the Group 3 state final.
"It's all about confidence," Leskauskas said. "We had two phenomenal guards. They weren't the biggest guys or the strongest guys out there, but they played with confidence. We'll get it together as a team. It's just a matter of time. As a senior it should be more about having fun and going out there and playing every game like it's your last one, otherwise, there's no point."
The other seniors on the team for Chatham are 6-0 guard Luke Fekete, 6-0 guard Jameson Shi, 6-3 forward Jack Arnuk, and 6-2 forward Sean Barry.
Two guards who gained valuable experience last year are sophomore Cam Rooney and junior Jack Casano-Boris. Both figure prominently in Ervin's backcourt plans.
Adding to the depth are junior guards James Platek and Cam Druhot and 6-0 junior forward Chris Moran.