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Coach Zach Wilde’s attitude is changing the culture of Hawks women’s basketball

By Steve Willits

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Women’s basketball coach Zach Wilde seemed to be in a very good mood when I interviewed him Tuesday night. I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising since his team had just defeated the defending District Champion Everett Seagulls 59-49, which improved the Hawks’ overall record on the season to 12-3. The Hawks currently sit in first place in the WesCo 3A South division and are the No. 4 best 3A team in the state, according to the latest Associated Press poll. The Hawks haven’t won a WesCo title since 1980, but that could be changing very soon depending on how the Hawks do over their final five regular season games.

I’m very excited to have the opportunity to broadcast my first Terrace women’s game of the season tonight on www.soundlivesportsnetwork.com when the Meadowdale Mavericks visit the Terraceum to take on the Hawks at 7:15 p.m. The Hawks already defeated Meadowdale 40-36 back on Dec. 13. It was the first victory by a Hawks women’s basketball team over Meadowdale in 26 years and now they have a chance to beat them again.

It is hard not to be impressed with the job that Wilde has done during his first 15 games as the head coach and it is even more impressive when you consider he just turned 24 years old back on Jan. 12. I brought up Wilde’s youth to Terrace Athletic Director Kim Stewart as I was curious if he had any concern over hiring such a young coach. “Not at all since that is about the age that I was when Marv Harshman took me in as a graduate assistant at the University of Washington,” Stewart said. “I couldn’t care less about his age.”

Stewart is very happy with his new hire and had plenty of positive things to say when I asked him about the attributes that make Wilde the right coach for this team. “There’s no weapon against somebody being enthusiastic and getting kids fired up, and he’s come in here and done that. There was nothing wrong with the way things were going, but sometimes a change of pace is a good thing and so far so good.”

Wilde also isn’t too worried about anyone questioning his age. “Age is a number. I face it everywhere I go. I work at a place (he is a project manager at Boeing when not coaching) where people have been working there longer than I have been alive and yet they still come and ask me questions and ask me for help,” Wilde said.

“The program is starting over, why not start with a fresh mind and a fresh coach? I’m going to face that question (being a younger coach) for the next 10 years until I’m considered one of the veteran coaches and I’m okay with it,” he explained.

Wilde also brings a supporting cast with him as his parents have also become part of the program. His father Fred helped Mike Romanowski coach the girls fall league team and Wilde’s mother Sharon is the team’s stats keeper.

Another question I had for Wilde was in regards to coaching at a program that does not have a rich history of success. The space on the Terraceum wall reserved for women’s basketball plaques is relatively bare. There is a plaque for the 1979 WesCo South Division Championship team and a 1980 WesCo title. “It is always good to be a part of something you build, not be the person that carries it (success) over. I came in here and thought about how there is nothing up there (referring to the lack of plaques), why can’t there be more? The (Terrace) boys are doing it, why can’t the girls do it?” Wilde said.

Wilde was already looking ahead to the Meadowdale game just minutes after the Tuesday night victory. “I told the girls that we just did something great, we just beat the District Champions (Everett) but you know what, it had been 26 years since Terrace had beat Meadowdale (before the earlier mentioned victory), why can’t we do it twice? We get that chance on Thursday night,” Wilde said.

Wilde is in his first year at the helm of the Hawks basketball team and he certainly doesn’t lack confidence. The first question I asked Zach was what his expectations would have been for the Hawks 15 games into the season prior to the first game and he answered “to be 15-0.” He said it with a smile on his face, but I’m not completely convinced that he was joking. Coach Wilde has lofty expectations for his team every game and so far he is getting outstanding results.

Success on the basketball floor is certainly something that Wilde has achieved as a player and he has the credentials to prove it. A 2008 Snohomish High School graduate, Wilde was voted the WesCo 4A Player of the Year during his senior season. Wilde then went on to play for Clackamas Community College where his team won the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges (NWAACC) Championship. He then transferred to Hawaii Hilo where he played his final three seasons of basketball. Wilde was then hired by Shorecrest High School as an assistant coach where he spent one year on Dori Monson’s bench before getting hired by Terrace this past year.

One of the things that I was curious about was why someone that has played men’s basketball for so long would want to coach the women’s game? Interestingly enough he mentioned his older sister Jordan who played college ball at George Fox in Oregon and is now an assistant coach at Wisconsin Parkside.

“I learned basketball from watching girls, my sister is four years older so I spent time in the gym watching girls play. The difference between the guys and the girls is that the guys’ speed is faster. Their moves are faster, but the girls make the moves correctly, so sitting in the gym, being a little runt and watching them play, that is how I learned basketball, from watching the girls.”

Spending the past year at Shorecrest meant that he had a chance to coach against most of the current Hawks roster twice last year. It was during that time when Wilde made his own assessments as just how good the Hawks should be. “I was sitting on the (Shorecrest) bench watching the game and I thought ‘why is this team not the best in the league?’ Realistically (this year) it is almost the same girls minus two players. I knew coming in if I could get them to work hard, they were going to be special,” Wilde said before jokingly saying, “I didn’t want to coach against them again either.” Fortunately, he got the job and doesn’t have to worry about that.

Wilde knew that part of the transition was instilling in his new team that they could win. “I knew we were going to be good and I just needed to make sure that they knew they could be good and wouldn’t accept losing. That winning is something they can go out and do and to accept winning, not accept losing,” he said.

It sounds simple enough but keep in mind that this is a team that won just seven of their 19 games last season.

One of the first games in which this mentality was put to the test happened back on Dec. 10 when Edmonds-Woodway played the Hawks. Terrace trailed 60-40 with less than six minutes to go in the game. The Hawks outscored the Warriors 23-2 for the remainder of the game to take a one point victory.

“It showed our character, Terrace has always been a tough team to play but they haven’t always been a physical team that’s not going to lose. They started to believe in themselves and now they don’t think they are out of a game ever.”

I wanted to know what Wilde’s expectations were for the remainder of the season. He is coaching a team that had a 7-12 record last year and has already overachieved compared to what many were expecting.

“The Associated Press has us ranked No. 4 in the state. These girls couldn’t think that was possible at the beginning of the year. Instead of having them be scared of it, I want them to embrace it. We can do something special, we can hang a bunch of plaques in the gym this year. League, District, State, whatever it is, we can do special things. We do talk about it but it is something that we have to keep in the back of our minds, it is a goal for us.”

Wilde seems to think they can accomplish great things. “I tell them that people know who they are now, but I want people to remember who they are. I told the team that there are two teams playing on the night of March 8 (state championship game). Why can’t it be us? There is really no reason why it can’t be.”

Wilde has already shown that he is capable of getting the Hawks to play at an elite level. He has lofty goals and expectations for his team and so far they have delivered. It should be interesting to see just how well they can do at the end of the season and into the playoffs. Win or lose, it won’t be for lack of effort and it won’t be for lack of confidence and enthusiasm from their coach.

When asked about his long term goals, Wilde seems very committed to coaching women’s basketball. “Long term wise my goal is to be the next Geno Auriemma (legendary University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach who has won eight National Championships). I want to be a Division I college coach, but you know what, I would be okay with being a 40-year coach at Terrace, there is nothing wrong with that. I know a lot of coaches have been around for a long time. It’s about giving opportunities to players. Helping them grow and that is what I’m really about. It’s about developing players, setting them up for life and giving back to what gave me so much.”

Wilde is a great guy and I certainly hope he gets his chance to coach at the college level someday but selfishly I’m happy he is a Hawk for now and hopefully for the foreseeable future. Go Hawks!

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Coach Zach Wilde’s attitude is changing the culture of Hawks women’s basketball