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Journeys: Alumni coach Q-and-A with … Longmont grad Wade Kingsbury

Kingsbury has led the girls basketball program the past two seasons

Wade Kingsbury, with an outlook shaded in that Longmont blue he’s admired since he was a youngster, hopes to do his part inside the Trojans community.

If up to him, Kingsbury, a 2007 alum of the school, would guide the girls basketball program for the foreseeable future … perhaps all the way to retirement … and not before “at least one state title.”

Knock on hardwood.

Titles, of course, are elusive. The Trojans girls program, in fact, has none despite three state finals appearances over the last 20 years. And coaches tend to get shuffled far more than framed — although, Longmont may act as the anomaly here with longtime coaches Jeff Kloster, Doug Johnson and Tom Fobes still thriving after decades-long careers.

But as far as his plan goes, Kingsbury is off to a good start.

Last winter, in his second year in charge, he led the Trojans to their first playoff win in five years despite being short on varsity experience. On it were a few faces that Kingsbury coached prior to becoming head coach while in charge of the program’s C-level (seven years) and JV (one year) teams. And perhaps none were more productive than C-player-turned-varsity-leader Jordynn Lee.

Heading into his third season this spring, his coaching staff also boasts younger sister Hannah Kingsbury, who was a part of the Trojans’ state title run in 2010, as well as Silver Creek grad Aeshia Grine.

How did your basketball journey lead you back to your alma mater to coach girls basketball?

“I started coaching basically immediately after graduating. I was an OK player. I am not super athletic. I am not tall, but I am a good student of the game. I always loved studying the game. I think that’s a part of my major, being a history guy and stuff like that. Obviously, teaching, I love. Teaching and coaching and mentoring, and obviously a lot of those skill sets go hand-in-hand. Even when I graduated high school, I was with the girls team that summer. They needed someone to help coach one of the younger teams, so I went to the Mesa camp with them and helped coach. And really after that stuff I was coaching with the girls’ side. My sister Hannah graduated from Longmont in 2010 and she was on those teams that were really competitive and lost the state championship her senior year, 2010. Then, they lost again in 2011. She played at Western and UCCS and she is our girls’ head JV coach now. I spent most of my life helping coach her, working with her, and so I knew that I wanted to stay close to the game and close to Longmont. For financial and personal reasons, I lived at home during college, so I was still in town. It was easy to stay connected with the school and stay connected to the program and all those types of things. That’s how I stuck with it and why I came back. My wife — we are high school sweethearts — so her whole family lives here. Our whole family lives here, so we knew that we wanted to settle in the area and stay close to family. That was a big piece of it, too.”

Who were some of your main coaching influences in high school, college, etc., and can you talk a bit about how they inspired you to become a coach yourself?

“I would say Coach Kloster. I was going to his camps from the time I was seven or eight-years-old. He was really important, especially with the tradition of Longmont High School. I never played football for him, but Coach Johnson at Longmont, too. I had him as a teacher twice. You could always just tell as a teacher being in and around the building with the way he cared about his students, and cared about his athletes as people first and student-athletes second. That is something that is really important to me. Then there’s Mike Knaus, who coached at Skyline for a long time, then was over at Longmont and still does some assistant stuff with different sports. He had kids the same age as both me and my sister. One of his sons, Kirk, was my best friend growing up from the time we were in kindergarten. He came to Longmont my junior year and was our basketball coach my senior year. That was really the first time that I had been coached by him. But obviously being friends with someone whose dad was a coach for a long time, whether it was in the backyard or over at the school to shoot or play catch, whatever it was, he was always coaching me from a young age, too. I think those would be three big ones, for sure.”

In a profession that can have a lot of turnover and change, how do you see your future in coaching going? Is coaching at Longmont or at the high school level something you see yourself continuing to do long term or is there something else on the horizon?

“This is where I want to be long term. Like I said, my wife and I are Longmont graduates. Her parents are both Longmont graduates. Our families all live here. We have a 3-and-a-half-year-old son, Nathan, who we want to live here and grow up around his grandparents. Longmont has always been a dream coaching and a dream teaching job for me. I had some other options at different points for coaching and teaching in the last nine or ten years. I liked teaching at Peak to Peak, it’s a great school, but when this (teaching) job came open this summer, to be able to tie my passion and being a Longmont graduate, this is where I want to be. I tell my kids in our program all the time two really important things to me about being in Longmont: One, there is something special I think about being in Longmont and being the only school in the city who wears the city name on your apparel and jersey. We talk all the time about the tradition of Longmont High School and being proud that you don’t just represent the school, but you represent the city as a whole. We talk a lot about how Pueblo schools are all named after Pueblo. When you meet teams from Pueblo or people from Pueblo, they are prideful of being from Pueblo. We talk about that with Longmont and Longmont High School, too. Secondly, I tell my kids, as someone who grew up here, and for my sister who went through the program, we were a really special program in the late 2000s. We have every expectation to take the program back to being a state contender every season. I tell my kids that my plan is that I am going to coach at Longmont until I retire — at least I win one state title, hopefully — or they take the job away from me. The program and the school mean that much to me as a person and as a coach and as a teacher.”

For players who have already come and gone through the program you’ve coached, or for those still around, what do you hope they take away from being part of your program?

“Our program philosophy is that once the young women leave our program they can tackle any obstacle that comes their way in life. We empower them to be leaders on and off the court. To be proud of who they are and the things that they accomplish, whether in basketball or in the classroom. We encourage our kids to take part at Longmont in other sports, other activities. Jordynn Lee, who was on our team last year and who was an all-conference player, she is also known at the school as one of the most respected thespians and choir kids. We really encourage the kids in our program to chase their dreams and passions in whatever they choose and want to do. I think that every other coach that is in this — we are here for the kids as people first. We tell our kids that we are here to support them in whatever they want. I tell the kids in my program that if you’re getting coached by me you can expect three words. You can expect me to be honest. You can expect me to challenge you. And you can expect me to support you, and that’s in all aspects of your life, whether basketball, in the classroom or other extracurriculars.”

If you can pin it down, what is your favorite memory so far from coaching at Longmont?

“I think I have two to be honest. One — when we went into D’Evelyn last year and won in the first round of the playoffs. That was the first playoff win in like (five) years. I think that was pretty special. Before that, like six years ago, we rolled off a bunch of wins to get to the Final Four as an underdog. The next year we were done in the first round and I think it left a sour taste on the program for a few years just in the kids’ minds. It was tough. So last year, it was nice to see us go down as an underdog and battle against D’Evelyn, who has been a top-notch program in the state for 10 or 15 years, and who is consistently a Sweet 16, Elite Eight team. Chris Olson over there is a great coach. That was special. I think the second thing is a little separate, but on our staff we’ve got my sister, an alum and graduate. And now we have Aeshia Grine, who has been coaching at Skyline the last six years and is a graduate of Silver Creek. Her and my sister grew up playing together and she is on our staff now. So, we have two female athletes from the area on our staff. Even in our middle school program, we have a couple former players who are helping coach middle school teams as college kids right now. I think it is special that a lot of the kids that have played for this program are getting back into coaching and back into working with the program. That is really special to me and says a lot about this area and this community and about Longmont High specifically.”