They battled as high school basketball rivals, and they’ve battled on opposite benches as high school coaches.

So Bettendorf boys basketball coach Curtis Clark, approved Monday night by the board of education, knows it’ll be natural when his Bulldogs encounter Davenport Assumption this winter. Joe Barrer, entering his fourth year leading the Knights, agreed.

That won’t take away from the thrill for Clark and Barrer, close pals who spent two years as teammates playing for Ray Shovlain at St. Ambrose from 2001 to 2003.

“Joe and I have shared many conversations, we’ve had dinner talking about basketball for many hours,” Clark said. “Joe is a very good friend of mine, and it is exciting for both of us.”

Clark, a 6-foot-4 all-state forward in his playing days, graduated from Maquoketa the same year the 6-foot-1 guard Barrer finished up at Assumption. Barrer’s Knights got the better of Clark’s Cardinals in the Class 3A postseason their junior and senior years.

“It’s funny how the world works that way,” Barrer said. “He showed up at Ambrose, we became great friends, and I got to be real close with his family, and he did with mine.”

Clark has spent the past six years in the Bettendorf program, perhaps on some level being groomed for this position. After two seasons as the freshman coach, the past four seasons elevated him to head sophomore coach as well as entrance to the varsity bench assisting Kevin Skillett.

The Bulldogs are 1-3 against Barrer-led Assumption, including three straight triumphs for the Knights. Each program has a Mississippi Athletic Conference title in the three years with Clark on the adjacent sideline from Barrer.

Now, they’re straight-up counterparts going forward.

“We’ll be professional about it, we’ll shake hands, wish each other good luck,” Clark said. “But during those four quarters, there probably won’t be a whole lot of communication going on, and we’ll both have the same goal in mind. Then after the game, we’ll go right back to where we are.”

“At the end of the day, it’ll be the same. It’s more about the jerseys and the kids — maybe who gets to call a timeout or two,” Barrer added. “We always look forward playing to playing Bettendorf, and they look forward to playing us because of the quality of programs over the years.”

Their era of Fighting Bees basketball has produced a wealth of coaches.

Matt Fitzpatrick, Barrer’s fellow Assumption product, is a Truman State assistant and former Knights sophomore coach, while Karl Petersen is the sophomore coach for his alma mater, Davenport Central. Moreover, Chris Ingstad is a Muscatine assistant, D.J. Brown is a head coach at Tinley Park, in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and Andy Place coaches at Heritage in Broadlands, Ill. All were Clark teammates.

“That’s outstanding for the group that’s together in coaching, to reflect their hard work and dedication and commitment,” Shovlain said. “Curtis was right at the forefront. I think he’s well-prepared. He was a great selection based on what I know he’s already contributed to Bettendorf already.”