Garrett resigns as girls basketball coach


March 16, 2023

Diana Zimmerman

After 11 successful years at the helm of the Wahkiakum Mules girls basketball program, Coach Rob Garrett is looking forward to new challenges.

Rob Garrett is resigning after 11 successful years as the Wahkiakum High School Girls Basketball Head Coach and has much to share about what he's learned over the last decade, about coaching and life.

Garrett's lifelong love of basketball and career goals were born in a gym watching another coach, his own father, Bob Garrett.

"My love of coaching started at a very young age," Garrett said. "My first influence would be my dad. I remember going to practice when I was still back in Lyle. We moved here when I was nine, so that was well before that. Some of my favorite memories as a kid were watching film with my dad, and some of my saddest moments as a kid were watching my dad's team get beat."

One of his proudest moments as a young man was watching his dad's team get to Spokane for the first time in 17 years.

"I've known I wanted to coach for a very long time," Garrett said.

He wanted to coach basketball, but never considered girls basketball.

When the opportunity presented itself, he took a chance, and took the job, and it transformed him and the whole program. After a little over a decade, Garrett finished with a 217-68 record, and six trips to Spokane for the state tournament, along with one summer state tournament, thanks to the pandemic. His teams won four district titles and played in one state title game. A number of players to pass through his program have gone on to play college basketball.

"It was not a job I ever anticipated taking," Garrett said. "It was not a job I ever anticipated wanting. I knew I wanted to coach boys whether it was here at Wahkiakum or somewhere else. I've known that since maybe middle school. My teaching career started because I wanted to coach basketball. I've never been shy about that, but that being said, I wouldn't trade what I had for the world. I learned more than I ever could have imagined, and met a ton of awesome people along the way. I have great memories, people I will be friends with for the rest of my life that have really helped me get here."

"My record is not my record. It's ours," he added.

I thought he meant the athletes. He did, but he meant so much more.

"That's down to the youth coaches that helped out," he said. "That's a huge thing that gets totally overlooked in a small community. If it wasn't for the youth coaches that brought groups up, you don't have that success available. If you don't have that foundation set, then all those trips to Spokane really aren't an option in my opinion. There is only so much a high school head coach can do."

He began listing names, afraid he'd forgotten someone. Todd Souvenir, Tiffany Niemeyer, Steve Leitz. Stacey Wegdahl, Bill and Shelley Olsen.

"Without those people, none of this would have ever happened," Garrett said.

Garrett is thoughtful and analytical, easily reflecting on his experience and all he's learned.

"If you're not learning, it's probably time to be done," he said.

"From a basketball standpoint, my philosophy changed almost every year based on what I had," Garrett said. "I have my ideal team that I would like to coach. It's not a college, you don't get to recruit. You don't get to hand pick players for your system. You have to mold your system to the players. I thought we did a good job of that."

He and assistant coaches were constantly problem solving and bouncing ideas off each other.

"We were always learning," he said. "There wasn't a single year or even a month that went by that we weren't trying something new, figuring out what worked or didn't from a drill standpoint, or during a game."

While strategies shifted according to need, the athletes always knew what was expected of them, and those standards never changed.

"We hope to teach a lot of things about just being a great person," Garrett said. "Can you be punctual? Can you give your teammates grace? Can you fight for something bigger than just yourself? Can you be committed to something? Can you do things that you don't want to do in the moment but you know are going to help you long term? I think all of those pieces that we tried to make a center point of our program. We are just trying to help kids become great adults."

Meanwhile the girls taught him about loyalty, and coaching taught him about grace, and if you were lucky enough to catch it, you were witness to him celebrating all their victories on the court.

"If you can get the girls to understand that you have their best interests in mind and that you are going to be there for them and they trust you, once you get that trust, they are going to run through the wall for you," Garrett said. "They are not going to second guess you, they are going to do what you ask, but you have to build that first. If you don't build that first, you are not going to get where you want to go. That's a process. It doesn't happen overnight. It takes a lot of time and a lot of dedication. No doubt there have been some amazing girls come through that have taught me a ton."

"You have to have a lot of grace and you have to have a lot of patience," he added. "I think all of us need grace. None of us are ever perfect. I feel like when I as a coach get in a hurry or lack patience, that's when typically things don't go as well as I would like them to. I find that when I am able to be patient and positive with my girls, things go a lot better. I think in reality that's probably true about all relationships. I would say that that is the big thing that basketball and coaching girls has taught me."

His father was the first coach to influence him, but he wasn't the last.

"Marc Niemeyer has been one of my biggest mentors as a teacher and a coach," Garrett said. "I think he's a phenomenal coach. His attention to detail, the time he puts in, the way he watches film, the way he structures practice, how much he cares about the kids, how much responsibility he consistently takes on himself: if I'm not going to bring the right energy, how do I expect them to? That's a big piece he taught me."

"As far as breaking down details of the game, I remember playing for Jeff Rooklidge," he added. "I still to this day think Rook is one of the best coaches I've ever seen. I didn't even like baseball. I played because my friends played. It was a pleasure to be coached by Rook. He was a master of his craft."

There were more names. Dan Taylor at Kings. Jeff Droog at Mount Vernon Christian. Shayne Shutz at Napavine, Dennis Bower at Onalaska. Scott Novak at LaConner.

Garrett remembers walking through the team lines after a win against LaConner at state.

"We were on cloud nine," he said. "Everyone is happy as can be. On the other side of that you have LaConner who is absolutely crushed, Their coach not only congratulated me, but took the time to tell me how great a game it was and how awesome our kids played and how happy he was for us. For him to be able to take that step back out of his own feelings or his teams feelings and to congratulate me in that moment, that was a huge eye opener for me as a young coach. That's important. You need to be able to win with grace and humility, and be able to be happy if it's not you that has that crazy awesome experience."

"If you are not able to learn something from people around you, then probably not being very reflective and not getting as much out of yourself as you would like to," Garrett said. "We're all here for the same reason. We love kids and we want to help them grow."

There have been a lot of special moments over the past 11 years.

"From a coaching standpoint, I remember how much it meant to me to win our first district title," Garrett said. "Obviously, it was a cool moment for the girls and the program. To be able to cut down that piece of net for my dad was just my way of saying thank you and how much this all means to me."

"I tell the girls this all the time, my favorite place on the planet is the Spokane Arena," he said. "I'll never take for granted a moment when I get to step on that court, and I thank every group that gave me that opportunity. It's a pretty magical place and a lot of cool things happen there."

There was the time Reigha Niemeyer hit a buzzer beater against Northwest Christian, and Kimberlee Watkins had the put back to tie it up with eight seconds to go on a crazy shot, he said.

"The other one that most people forget about, we were playing LaConner in the state semifinal game," Garrett said. "Kaylee Bryant got trapped in the corner and Tori Wegdahl flashes underneath the hoop. Kaylee steps around and makes a great pass to Tori. She catches it, wide open, and there are two or three seconds to go. Tori starts to jump before she looks up and as she looks up she realizes she is directly under the hoop. So she leans way back and brings the ball back and makes what turns out to be a super difficult shot to go to the state title. That was unreal."

"It's been a lot of fun," Garrett said. "I've really enjoyed it."


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