by Corey Wiscomb
I am very proud of the young men who I have coached over the past four years.
When I first joined them, they were just a bunch of boys who liked to play a game. Together, with the help of Stephanie Shaw, Andrew Stephens, Mathew Chasanoff, Willie Clancy, Rebekah Hardee, Dirul Islam Shamsid-Deen and Chris Bullock, we molded a program that was built on foundations of mutual respect, hard work, balance and a willingness to work through our issues together as a team in order to become that which we dreamed.
Alas, the time has come for me to resign. I will be dedicating myself to returning to graduate school in order to reach my goal of a Masters in Education degree. And as many of my players know from our goal-shares, I will also be working to put energy into my life goals in music and my own artistic development.
If you know my coaching style, then you know I run no set plays on offense. We run off principles of motion and movement. Basketball stripped down to what I see as its purest form. As such, a team that does well is truly playing the “Art of Basketball.” It takes a special group of young men to commit and make it work.
While it took a couple years of dedicated practice, perseverance and study to integrate the concepts into their game, the 2017 team used the principles to set the all-time highest points per game average in the history of the league – 71.6 points per game. They did this on their way to the first League Championship in 20 years, and then the first District Championship in 20 years. Those young men played like warrior poets, with basketball as their words, a season as their sonnet.
It might surprise people to hear that while I did enjoy the big wins we had, they are not my favorite memories of my time with the players. (Except that first win against Friday Harbor in 2016 when a stunning jump shot at the buzzer announced that Orcas was back!)
One of the moments that first comes into my mind is the pre-game chant. I watched as young men went from cracking voices to men united and going to battle in the only type of war I’d support on our planet. They were ferocious, strong, honorable and courageous. I loved hearing them do our pregame.
How the community came out to support was phenomenal. That meant so much. The players really began to see how Nelson Mandela’s words, “Sport has the Power to Change the World” could ring true, even in a small town like ours.
Last year’s final game of the season was one of the most unified moments I’ve seen in our school: matching against our arch rival, Friday Harbor, the winner was to be declared league champion. In the fourth quarter, Vanya Bullock hit a deep 3-pointer to tie the game, Friday Harbor called a timeout and the crowd erupted into a chant of “MVP, MVP!” that was so loud the players couldn’t hear me in the huddle no matter how hard I yelled. That was a special moment.
Watching assistant coach Andrew Stephens cut down his piece of the net after our district championship was also cool. I’m so honored that such a great community member volunteered his time so whole-heartedly. We were so lucky to have him involved. Andrew is a sage, and that piece of net is a wonderful keepsake reminder of all the lessons he shared with us all along the journey. I’m so thankful to Andrew for all he did with our program. As the players can attest, Andrew has the best pre-game speeches!
Last year’s holiday break was special. The previous year’s championship team came back for a closed-door scrimmage against the current team. They battled, and it was beautiful. Such fantastic basketball was being played. There were classic pick and rolls, screens were hedged, shouting, shoes screeching, dunks, threes – they had all learned so much. And at the end of it, egos were set aside. They were all smiles, just a family of ballers, all in support of each other. It has hit me since how special that day was.
I will always hold dear each and every moment that followed the final game of each season. As we said goodbye to our seniors who just played their last game, the emotions were so real and so reflective of the honest heart that we all put in.
A whole state full of teams, but only one will be crowned the champion. It seems almost daunting to take a swing at such a goal, and that’s why I so deeply respect the bravery that these young men show in trying. Title or not, they have all been champions to me.