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A look back at lessons learned: Auburn Mountainview's Carr retires from coaching
You can learn a lot of life’s lessons in 19 years of coaching.
For Auburn Mountainview girls basketball coach Chris Carr, who retires from coaching at the end of the season, the lessons he’s learned from athletes he’s coached will continue to resonate.
“There is not one game that I’ll remember forever,” Carr said. “It’s like I always tell the kids, it’s the journey, not the destination. But I’ll always remember the kids that had an impact on me and my life. Even in a non-basketball way.”
Carr’s journey in coaching began in 1994 when he took the helm of the White River girls basketball team.
For the next two years, Carr guided the Lady Hornets, building the foundation of a program that would finish eighth in the state the final year Carr coached there and become a state 3A powerhouse.
After White River, Carr tried his hand coaching a boys program at Yelm High School.
The year proved trying because of ‘various reasons away from the court,” Carr said. But, he added, thanks to “the good friends I made there,” it was still a rewarding experience.
Eager to land a coaching job closer to his home in Kent, Carr jumped at the chance to coach at the brand new Kentlake High School when it opened in 1995.
“I was 3-17 at Yelm, so I wasn’t sure if I was marketable,” Carr said. “Luckily, Dave [Lutes, Kentlake’s Athletic Director at the time] took a chance on me.”
For the next four years Carr guided the Falcon boys basketball team, getting his first taste of what it takes to establish a program from the foundation up.
“There is just something about starting your own program,” he said. “I’m the type of guy who likes building something from scratch. I just was never the kind of guy who wants to take over a established program and keep it at that level. I want to establish something.”
“I love the challenge of taking a brand new program and making it something. My second year at Kentlake, we’re in the district tournament out of a tough 4A league.”
In 1999 Carr decided to return to coaching girls basketball.
“There were two reasons,” Carr said. “The first part was I had an amazing group of athletes, including an Olympic athlete, Courtney Thompson, [who played for the Team U.S.A. volleyball team in the 2012 Olympics]. I think we had four Division I kids – not in basketball but in other sports – on that team. And I knew I might never get the opportunity again to coach that much talent.”
The prospect of getting the chance to coach his two daughters, Caitlin and Aly, when they hit high school was the other factor.
“They grew up in a gym, and I could see they were going to be basketball players,” he said. “And I thought ‘Am I going to be the guy coaching another team away while they’re playing?’ And I didn’t want to be that guy,” he said.
For four years Carr coached the Lady Falcons. During that time, he said, he learned a valuable lesson. And Thompson was his teacher.
“I realized with Courtney’s group that it was more about the journey,” he said. “Sometimes I would pick her (Thompson) up. Her mom would call and tell me she was running home again after a game. I would get her and tell her that there were bigger things than just the game. I think I learned that relaxing was important. I learned from her that winning wasn’t the only thing, it was about getting better every day.”
Shaping a new program
In 2005, when Auburn Mountainview High School opened Carr again earned another opportunity to mold a brand new program.
Under his guidance the Lions have become a consistent contender in the South Puget Sound League 3A division and have qualified for the state tourney three times, finishing eighth in 2007.
At Auburn Mountainview Carr was able to fulfill his dream of coaching Caitlin – who graduated last year and is now playing basketball for Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho – and Aly – who is a senior this season.
This past Saturday, the school honored Carr before the Lions’ home game against Peninsula. In addition to friends and family, several of Carr’s former players attended.
“It was bittersweet I’m going to miss a lot the interaction with kids,” Chris said. “But I’m definitely at peace with it. I’m ready. The AD piece [Carr is the Auburn Mountainview athletic director] keeps me pretty busy and I’ll always have that interaction with athletes.”
Still he says it’s hard to leave this year’s team, which includes 11 underclassmen.
“In my 19 years this is probably the top two or three of all the teams I’ve ever coached,” he said.
Reflecting on his nearly 20-year-long coaching career, Carr said:
“I don’t really have any regrets about how I did it. Like I said, I’ve learned more than I’ve taught.”
ALSO: Coach Carr wasn’t the only member of his family recognized this past Saturday at Auburn Mountainview. Carr’s youngest daughter Aly, the Lions’ lone senior, was also recognized for her high school career.
On Jan. 22 Aly suffered a season-ending ACL injury against Bonney Lake.
“It was devastating, more as a father than a coach,” Carr said. “I kind of knew right away that it was serious. It was deviating knowing she couldn’t play high school again.”
According to Carr, Peninsula girls basketball coach Steve Jacobson arranged for Aly to suit up and receive the game’s opening tip-off, despite her injury. More than curtailing her basketball career, Aly’s injury will also cause her to miss the Washington State 4A Girls Golf tourney, which she qualified for this fall.
“I was going to attempt to walk and play golf at Eastern Washington University,” Ally said. “But now with this injury, it makes me want to walk and play basketball too. I feel like I never finished basketball now.”
“This has taught me a lot, it taught me to not take anything for granted,” she said. “You never know when your last practice or game can be. It’s pretty crazy to think I’ll never play a high school basketball game again.”
And for the record, Aly said, she has her doubts about her father’s retirement.
“It’s pretty crazy to think he’s actually done,” she said. “I still don’t think he’s done forever. I think he’ll come back. But that’s just me, I don’t think he can stay away.”