Humility, passion, unity, servanthood, thankfulness.
Those are just some of the lessons former Lynden Christian girls’ basketball coach Curt De Haan imparted on his players throughout his 34-year career with the Lyncs.
De Haan retired last March after leading the girls’ basketball team to a 25-2 record and its 10th state championship and De Haan’s eighth as coach. He finished with 772 career wins — the most by a high school girls’ basketball coach in state history.
But De Haan’s legacy wasn’t completed yet.
On Wednesday, Jan. 14, a school press release announced De Haan as the 2014 National Federation of High School Coaches Association National Girls’ Basketball Coach of the Year.
“It was really a special blessing the way the girls had a storybook finish for the old coach, going out and winning state,” De Haan said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I got the letter a couple days ago. It was surprising but it was a reflection of the athletes that we’ve had over the years and the many people that have supported me throughout my career.”
According to the press release, the criteria includes community service, involvement in his profession at the local, state and national levels and a basic philosophy of athletics.
That philosophy includes passion and commitment, but also understanding that the team is greater than the individual, which was the Lyncs’ motto last season.
De Haan, who graduated from Lynden High School in 1971, received much of his knowledge about the game of basketball, as well as how to coach from former coaches Jake Maberry and Rollie DeKoster, De Haan said.
“They fostered the love for basketball in my world and played an important role in life for me,” De Haan said. “They taught me a lot of things about work ethic, team-building, sacrifice, goal-setting and commitment to excellence — Some of the same values I tried to share.”
De Haan still serves as a teacher at Lynden Christian, as well as the athletic director, passing on the things he’s learned to the Lyncs’ coaches and players.
“I think we want our coaches to be grounded. It’s just a game,” De Haan said. “There’s lots of valuable life lessons that are learned whether positive or whether you’re going through adversity. That’s just part of life.”
De Haan not only thanks his wife and three children for their support along the way, but the community of Lynden, which De Haan says is a “basketball town.”
De Haan was nominated for the national award by Washington state and got to coach the Washington all-stars against Oregon’s all-stars last April. After coaching in that game, De Haan filled out an application in October before the award was announced Wednesday.
“He was trying to teach the game of life more than the game of basketball,” said Harlan Kredit, the former athletic director at Lynden Christian and a close friend to De Haan, in a phone interview shortly after DeHaan retired. “These kids had more value to him than on the basketball court. ... He realized he had to be a role model, and he tried to live his own life that way — with a tremendous amount of integrity.”
The storied coach finished with eight state titles and an .838 winning percentage (772-149) while advancing to state 31 times. He also had 20 or more wins in 30 of his 34 seasons, including a pair of unbeaten years in 1996 and 2008.
“I’ve been blessed and it’s been an honor for me to coach at Lynden Christian for so many years with so much tremendous community support,” De Haan said. “I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work with quality athletes and great assistant coaches. To me, this award speaks to what they’ve accomplished.”