High School Basketball

He wasn’t so sure about returning home, but he had the passion to make it work

Lynden Christian coach Roger DeBoer cheers and pumps a fist after the Lyncs score a 3-point shot against Meridian in 2012. DeBoer will enter the WIBCA Hall of Fame along with Squalicum’s Dave Dickson and Lynden’s Brian Roper on Thursday, July 28.
Lynden Christian coach Roger DeBoer cheers and pumps a fist after the Lyncs score a 3-point shot against Meridian in 2012. DeBoer will enter the WIBCA Hall of Fame along with Squalicum’s Dave Dickson and Lynden’s Brian Roper on Thursday, July 28. The Bellingham Herald

Roger DeBoer admits he wasn’t sure about returning to coach the boys basketball program at Lynden Christian in 2009. In fact, he was more against it than for it when he heard about the opening.

He’d already assembled a résumé worthy of Hall of Fame consideration during 19 seasons at Seattle Christian, leading the Warriors to state title games five times in six years between 1998 and 2003, including a state title in 2000.

And he already owned a state title as a Lync, helping LC claim the Class 1A crown in 1982 during his senior season.

“You don’t hear a whole lot of home-boy-comes-home stories that are successful,” DeBoer said. “I thought it would be difficult for me to return. The Lynden Christian job, it was one I never thought I’d find attractive. But God called me into it, and I credit Him for making me apply.”

It’s an experience, DeBoer said, that’s been like the icing on the cake for his basketball journey.

“It’s been an added bonus to my coaching career,” he said. “I get to walk into the same gym I did as a high school player, and I get to coach new Lyncs on what it means to own that uniform.”

On July 28, DeBoer will join Squalicum’s Dave Dickson and Lynden’s Brian Roper – Whatcom County coaching colleagues he considers close friends – in being inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame at a banquet at the Ferndale Events Center.

26 Seasons coaching, including the past seven at Lynden Christian

455 Career coaching victories

.701 Career winning percentage (455-194)

13 State tournament appearances by his teams

11 State trophies won by his teams

2 State championships won by his teams

“Obviously, it’s a great honor,” DeBoer said. “More importantly, what it does is give me an opportunity to reflect on the journey I’ve taken to get here. I keep coming back to that as I think over it. ... This is a culmination of my basketball journey to this point, which is coaching.”

In addition to leading teams to 13 trips to state, 11 state trophies and 455 victories during his 26 seasons as a coach, DeBoer’s journey has included an incredible amount of passion.

One of the first things an outsider will notice about DeBoer’s coaching style is all the raw emotion he freely displays throughout the roller-coaster ups and downs of a typical game.

It’s been a long love affair for me with this game. When you love a game that much and have the passion I do for working with kids, and you combine those two, it makes coaching basketball a whole lot of fun.

Lynden Christian boys basketball coach Roger DeBoer

“Roger is so competitive,” said Lynden athletic director Mike McKee, who began a friendship with DeBoer while both attended Seattle Pacific University in the mid 1980s. “He is a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. You know when Roger is happy, and you know when Roger is not happy.”

Part of that passion comes from DeBoer’s love for basketball, a sport he grew up around. DeBoer, 52, said he has attended the Class 1A State Tournament 50 times and still gets a thrill from breaking down and analyzing other teams’ strengths and weaknesses.

But what DeBoer loves even more is the opportunity coaching provides him to work with young student-athletes.

I think he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. There’s probably not a coach out there that deserves it more.

Former Lynden Christian basketball player Dustin Brandsma

“Our first goal is making sure our players know they are loved,” DeBoer said. “Love takes on a lot of faces – sometimes it’s a hug, and sometimes it’s tough love. We don’t want any of our players thinking they’re just a piece of meat toward an objective, but we need them to know they are someone who is loved. ... To me, that is my favorite part of this coaching journey. Every day I coach, I get to love on these kids, and that is so rewarding.”

Many of DeBoer’s student-athletes would probably say it’s also been rewarding for them. Though he sometimes has to take the tough love approach, DeBoer always seems to get the most out of his players while at the same time making sure they have a positive experience with the program and are able to learn what it takes to be a good teammate in any walk of life.

“It seems like he was always trying to make me play my hardest,” former LC player Dustin Brandsma said. “I always struggled with not trying, but he would get that out of me and push me to my limits. ... He always tried to get the best out of everyone.”

Roger is an excellent Xs and Os coach. He puts his kids in a really good position to succeed and adapts the Xs and Os. That’s why he’s had such extended success.

Lynden athletic director Mike McKee

By doing so, DeBoer has gotten the most out of his teams.

In his seven years with the Lyncs, he’s helped LC reach the state tournament five times, and in 2012 – 30 years after he won a state title as a player – he led the same program to a state championship as a coach, becoming one of a select few in the state to win titles as a player and coach at the same school.

But it’s not the wins or even the titles that drive DeBoer and ignite his legendary passion – it’s the relationships he gets to forge through coaching.

“Wins and losses come and go,” DeBoer said, “and when you get old, like I am, wins add up, but it’s certainly not what keeps me going. When you look back, the really special teams – and I’ve had a number of them – are the teams that were the closest and bonded together, not only with each other but with the coaching staff. Those are the ones you remember. Those are the ones that make coaching this game so special.”

Roger DeBoer bio

High school: Lynden Christian (graduated in 1982)

College: Seattle Pacific

Coaching career: Spent his first few years as an assistant at Bellevue Christian. He got his first head coaching position at Seattle Christian in 1989, where he spent 19 seasons. In 2009, he moved to Lynden Christian.

Personal: He and wife Jill have three sons – Jaden, 14, Cole, 12, and Chase, 9.