When the Colorado High School Activities Association announced its 2017 Hall of Fame class, a name appeared on the list that should be familiar to a number of people involved in high school sports in Boulder County.
That name was Bobbi Brown-Vandenberg, who coached high school sports for 38 years in Colorado and Wisconsin. Among her many Hall of Fame-worthy achievements, Brown-Vandenberg coached the Boulder High girls basketball team to state championships in 1984, 1986, 1989, when the Panthers went undefeated, 1990 and 1991. She is currently the women's basketball coach at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis.
On Wednesday, I caught up with Brown-Vandenberg to get her thoughts on being selected for the CHSAA Hall of Fame and a few other things.
Question: First of all, congratulations on being selected to the CHSAA Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2017. Were you surprised when you found out you had been selected and what does this distinction mean to you?
Brown-Vandenberg: I guess I was surprised, mainly because I didn't know that my tenure was long enough. Most of the recipients, at least as coaches, have longer tenures in Colorado. But I was definitely humbled because a lot of the names in there, I already know and they're incredible people. Kent Smith (former Boulder boys basketball coach and member of 2017 HOF class) was also one of my mentors, so that's really thrilling that we're going in together. I student taught under him and while I did, I was like a sponge and I asked him a lot of questions.
As a former player for the University of Colorado, your background is clearly rooted in basketball. But while you were at Boulder High, you also served as an assistant football coach, coaching wide receivers and defensive backs. Just this year, Nederland High hired Beth Buglione as Colorado's first female prep head football coach. As a woman who coached football yourself, what's it like to see a woman named head football coach back in Boulder County?
You know, I think if someone is qualified, it shouldn't matter their gender. If they know the game and they know how to teach the game, then they should get a shot. And football, I guess, is the ultimate male sport, but you have a lot of women in sports now, assistant coaching and commentating on football. So, I always felt like it was going to happen at some point and it's cool that she's getting that opportunity at Nederland.
Now, when I coached football, it was because Dave Ramsey kept bugging me. I didn't feel like I was qualified, but he said he would teach me what I needed to know about the game and I just had to coach what he taught me. I really enjoyed it and I learned a lot. But to have someone be head coach is a whole other step, because they're running the program.
During your highly-successful tenure at Boulder High, you had a 182-28 record so there must have been a lot of special moments. Looking back now and if you had to choose one, what would be your favorite moment from your time at Boulder High?
Possibly when we went undefeated, because that was really special. To have an undefeated season and capping it off with a state championship was just an amazing moment. It really resonated to think, 'Oh, man. We went the whole season and we won every game.' If there was one moment, I would have to say it was that year.
But you're right, there were so many moments and so many great players that it almost felt like magic sometimes. We were fortunate to win a lot of games and several state titles at Boulder but that just speaks to the talent we were lucky enough to have. But it's really the people you remember most, and I had the chance to meet a lot of special people during my time in Boulder.