Ryan Staudacher has strived to create a family environment all season with his Lake Washington boys basketball team. Actually, Staudacher stepped into one the moment he returned to the school.
It wasn’t that long ago that Staudacher, 27, was roaming the halls as a student. In his three years as part of the Kangs’ coaching staff, Staudacher has had two younger brothers on the team.
In his first season as head coach at Lake Washington, Staudacher has led the Kangs to the Class 2A state tournament, where they will face Clarkston at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at the Yakima Valley SunDome. The Kangs last made it to the state tournament in 2012, but went just 10-12 last season and endured another change in what has lately been a coaching carousel.
“It’s weird, (but) it’s kind of a cool thing to come back to your alma mater and get the opportunity … to coach where you played,” Staudacher said. “Makes it a little more special, I think.”
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A sharpshooter and a standout quarterback for the football team, Staudacher chose to pursue basketball. After playing hoops at Montana, he took his game to leagues in Germany and France. Playing in Europe offered little monetary gain and Staudacher returned to the Seattle area, where he works as a financial consultant.
Coaching was not originally in the plans for Staudacher, who started as an assistant two years ago only because his brother Mark was a senior on the team. When the opportunity to be the head coach arose before this season, Staudacher had to draw on his experiences playing abroad.
“More than anything, playing on a number of different teams, I’ve seen lots of different coaching styles and different team chemistries within different groups of guys,” he said. “Just learning different things from different teams and trying to pick and choose what I think would work the best with our group.”
Along with a sense of family, Staudacher has emphasized shorter practices, but at a higher intensity. The changes have worked. Despite a record of just 3-5 in the past eight games, Lake Washington earned a berth to the state tournament, something Staudacher never did as a player.
It’s a trade-off he’s happy to make, though Staudacher will be the first to admit the adjustment period from player to coach is an ongoing process.
“I think the hardest thing for me is I don’t have control when it’s time to play the game,” he said. “I’ve been telling all my guys and my coaches, I get way more nervous for these games as a coach than I ever did when I played.”