High School Basketball

Sehome’s LaBree resigns as boys’ basketball coach

Sehome boys' basketball coach AJ Labree finishes honoring seniors on senior night before a game against Anacortes on Feb. 5. LaBree on Tuesday, July 7, announced he was resigning from the program after eight seasons.
Sehome boys' basketball coach AJ Labree finishes honoring seniors on senior night before a game against Anacortes on Feb. 5. LaBree on Tuesday, July 7, announced he was resigning from the program after eight seasons. The Bellingham Herald

In the end, after days of soul searching, Sehome’s AJ LaBree decided he needed to put his professional career ahead of his coaching career.

LaBree announced in an email Tuesday, July 7, that he has resigned from the Mariners boys’ basketball program.

LaBree for the past two and a half years has been working toward obtaining his teaching certification in special education at Western Washington University. Following completion last winter, LaBree couldn’t find a full-time teaching position in the area.

Ultimately, a connection with Union High School basketball coach and former Sehome assistant Blake Conley lured LaBree away from Whatcom County and Sehome’s basketball program.

“Sehome basketball has been a huge part of my life, and it didn’t feel right, but at the same time I’m proud of what the kids have accomplished,” LaBree said in a phone interview. “It was heart-wrenching, but once I went through the pros and cons and talked with friends and family it became really obvious for me.”

Conley, during a conversation a few weeks back, candidly told LaBree a JV coaching position had opened up and that it came with a full-time teaching gig. LaBree expressed interest, and not before long Union, located in Vancouver, reached out to LaBree and eventually offered him a position.

“It was very difficult,” said LaBree of his decision. “Came down to in the end that I needed the full-time job. It’s too bad I can’t bring the team with me, and It’s too bad I can’t bring the job up here.”

LaBree has served as the Mariners’ coach since the 2007-08 season, leading the program to a 121-77 (.611) record in the eight seasons since.

Sehome advanced to at least the district tournament all eight seasons under LaBree, and three times (2008, ’14 and ’15) the Mariners reached the state tournament. In 2008, the Mariners claimed the fifth-place trophy at state, and last year, Sehome placed fourth with a 20-9 record.

The news of LaBree’s resignation is just the latest blow to Sehome’s athletic programs. Less than a month ago, longtime baseball coach Gary Hatch announced his retirement.

“It’s a huge loss,” said Cushman of losing LaBree. “He has really done a phenomenal job coaching our program. The kids have been competitive every year, but more importantly have become very positive role models for other kids. ... I was very disappointed, but I completely support and understand where he is coming from. A high school coaching spot doesn’t pay the bills.”

Sehome graduated nine seniors last winter, but will return a talented group that includes Leighton Kingma, Logan Deboo and Marcus Montag.

“Whoever comes in, the bottom line is they have great kids to work with with really supportive parents,” LaBree said. “I am proud of where the program is, and I don’t see why it would not continue moving up.”

LaBree said his JV coaching spot at Class 4A Union is not solidified and added it would be a bonus to the real prize which is the full-time teaching position. He also said he’s looking forward to following his former team in the seasons to come.

Cushman has posted the position as “open until filled,” meaning he will interview candidates he feels are qualified, within no specific time frame, until he feels the right person for the job has been unearthed.

“Every athletic director has his wish list, and sometimes it’s hard to fill that,” Cushman said, “but I am looking for someone who has proven head coaching experience, that connects with kids, teaches character building and is strong on fundamentals.”

Reach Andrew Lang at 360-756-2862 or andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com. Read the Sports Blog at bellinghamherald.com/sports-blog. Follow him on Twitter at @BhamSports and on Facebook at WhatcomCountySports.

Mariners under A.J. LaBree






Placed fifth at state



Went 1-2 in district tournament



Went 0-1 in district tournament



Went 1-2 in district tournament



Went 1-2 in district tournament



Went 2-2 in district tournament



Lost in regional round of state



Placed fourth at state