One wears his emotions firmly on his sleeve, leaving little doubt for anyone watching or listening exactly how he feels.
Another rarely raises his voice and never gets agitated, remaining in a sort of Zen state no matter what’s happening on the court.
And the third? He’s somewhere in the middle – analyzing every move and planning ahead like a chess grandmaster before barking out crisp, clear commands.
How does the old saying go: There’s more than one way to skin a cat? Well, it turns out there’s more than one way for a high school basketball coach to get into the Hall of Fame.
Though their on-court personas are completely different, Whatcom County coaching legends Roger DeBoer of Lynden Christian, Dave Dickson of Squalicum and Brian Roper of Lynden will be inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame at a westside banquet Thursday, July 28, at the Ferndale Events Center, 5715 Barrett Road. Fellow Class of 2016 members Darcy Weisner (Brewster, Burlington-Edison and Shadle Park), Mike Thacker (Tonasket, Moses Lake, Freeman, Liberty) and Mike Hull (Pateros) will be inducted at an eastside banquet on Tuesday, July 26, in Spokane.
It would be great to see any one of them go in, but all three on the same night here in Whatcom County? It’s going to be a fantastic evening.
Lynden athletic director Mike McKee
Thursday’s banquet should be one that Whatcom County basketball fans won’t forget anytime soon. It also might prove that, despite external appearances, these three are not all that different, after all.
“As good as those three guys are as coaches, they’re better people,” Lynden athletic director Mike McKee said. “They care about everyone they deal with. They’re three of the absolute best people I know. If none of them coached, I’d feel it would be difficult to find three more quality people.”
If anyone would know, it’s McKee, who attended Seattle Pacific University along with Roper and DeBoer, has coached alongside Roper and Dickson and has gone against DeBoer a number times during his career. McKee also hired Dickson to replace himself at Squalicum when he stepped away from coaching in 2006.
I look at coaching on a day-to-day basis not as a profession, but as something that I love to do.
Lynden Christian boys’ basketball coach Roger DeBoer
McKee calls all three close friends, but he doesn’t let that influence his opinion of them as basketball coaches.
“As an athletic director, you start to look at coaching a little different,” McKee said. “In looking at some of the best coaches I’ve worked with and coached against, I’ve found that their personalities are very different. Even the X’s and O’s are different. But the one commonality is that the good coaches can build trust at a much faster and deeper rate. ... It’s what I call the ‘It’ factor. Those three guys – Roger, Dave and Brian – I would rate them at the higher end of the ‘It’ factor range.”
Lovin’ what they’re doing
The way they make a connection with their respective players, parents and assistant coaches to help start building that trust also is relatively universal among the Hall of Fame three. It can be boiled down to their love for the people they work with and coach.
“I think that regardless of your profession, your love and passion for anything is reflective on your body of work,” said DeBoer, who coached at Seattle Christian for 19 years before returning to his alma mater at Lynden Christian in 2009. “I look at coaching on a day-to-day basis not as a profession, but as something that I love to do. ... I get a chance to love on these kids and watch these kids come in as seventh- and eighth-graders and watch them progress into young men. That’s the fuel for me – the love I get to share with these guys.”
I think I have a competitive side, and it’s been able to manifest itself in coaching.
Squalicum boys’ basketball coach Dave Dickson
But that’s not the only love the coaches share.
DeBoer, Dickson and Roper all own an equally deep passion for the game they coach and for teaching it to their young players.
“I think that I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the game of basketball,” said Dickson, who coached Oak Harbor from 1987 to ’91, before coaching Bellingham for seven seasons and becoming the first coach at Squalicum when it opened in 1998. “I think it hooked me the first time I played an organized game and made a shot. I think I have a competitive side, and it’s been able to manifest itself in coaching.”
Being able to share that love of competition with young players makes coaching even more rewarding.
At the heart of it, coaching is teaching – a calling all three have answered. Dickson and Roper both currently teach at their respective schools, and DeBoer was a teacher at Seattle Christian, before the sports uniform company he co-owns – Cloud 9 Sports – grew to the point that it needed his full-time attention.
“I love the game, but you want do something where you can have an impact on people’s lives,” said Roper, who coached at North Mason and Sequim before arriving at Lynden in 2005. “For me, I know that the coaches I had were influential in my development. I hoped I could find a job that would allow me to be around the game I loved and invest in the lives of young people. That’s the higher calling of coaching.”
Going the extra mile
While it was their love for teaching the game of basketball to young players that got DeBoer, Dickson and Roper into coaching, it took a deeper level of commitment for them to be successful at it over such a long period of time.
Between them, the trio has 71 seasons of coaching experience. During that time, they’ve combined to lead their teams to 1,187 victories, an 0.684 winning percentage, 35 state tournament appearances, 25 state trophies, 13 trips to state title games and six state championships.
But as impressive as those numbers are, not every season has been a winner.
“With coaches, if you have one bad year, some people will start to think the game has passed you by,” McKee said. “These guys have a different view of learning. They’re great teachers, and Roger is a very good businessman. ... None of those guys think they know it all – they’re constantly learning. If you don’t have that attitude, the game will pass you by.”
McKee said it takes a lot of drive to stay on top of the game, and DeBoer, Dickson and Roper all have shown a tireless work ethic to keep themselves in that realm.
Sometimes that means leaving the comforts of home on the weekend or during the summer to open the gym so a player can put up some shots, and other times it means long hours breaking down an opponent or learning a new aspect of the game.
I hoped I could find a job that would allow me to be around the game I loved and invest in the lives of young people. That’s the higher calling of coaching.
Lynden boys’ basketball coach Brian Roper
“The thing that amazes me about all three of them,” McKee said, “is their humility. To look at each of them, you’d never know they were a Hall of Fame coach. Coaching basketball is important to all three of them, but it is secondary to family, friends and faith. That’s what makes each of these guys so special.”
And it should make for a special night on Thursday, when all three are honored in their own backyard, not only for their success, but for their years of service and the lives they’ve touched.
They will become the ninth, 10th and 11th coaches with ties to Whatcom County schools to enter the WIBCA Hall of Fame.
“These three guys have helped created a great fraternity of coaches in this conference with the chemistry and competition you want,” McKee said. “They’ve created an atmosphere where kids battle on the court and then are supportive off it. ... It would be great to see any one of them go in, but all three on the same night here in Whatcom County? It’s going to be a fantastic evening.”
WIBCA Hall of Fame
WESTSIDE INDUCTION BANQUET
Who: Lynden Christian’s Roger DeBoer, Squalicum’s Dave Dickson and Lynden’s Brian Roper
When: 6 p.m. Thursday, July 28 (social hour at 5 p.m., with buffet dinner and ceremony to follow at 6 p.m.)
Where: Ferndale Events Center
RSVP: Email email@example.com as soon possible
Whatcom County coaching icons
Roger DeBoer, Brian Roper and Dave Dickson will become the ninth, 10th and 11th coaches with Whatcom County connections to be inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Eisenhower, Sehome, Kentwood, Highland, Ellensburg
Central Kitsap, Lynden
Ferndale, King’s, Fife, Spokane East Valley, North Mason
Seattle Christian, Lynden Christian
Blaine, Yakima East Valley, Cashmere, Nooksack Valley
North Mason, Sequim, Lynden
Oak Harbor, Bellingham, Squalicum
Meridian, Washougal, Stanwood
Mount Baker, Lynden
Ferndale, Everett CC, Everett
+Monte Walton was inducted as an assistant coach, though he also led the Golden Eagles for four seasons.