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Auburn boys basketball coach Ryan Hansen is Prep Coach of the Year
No one expected much from the Auburn Trojan boys basketball team before the start of the 2012-2013 season.
"The coaches' poll came out and we were picked to finish seventh in our league," said head coach Ryan Hansen. "Immediately, there was talk in our locker room from the guys that they felt disrespected. I figured we were better than finishing seventh in our league. But I didn't think we were good enough to be competing for the league title like we did."
The team responded to the preseason dis, putting together a 12-4 second-place finish in the South Puget Sound League North 4A and fighting its way into the Washington State 4A regional tourney, where the boys ended their season just one game short of the state 4A tourney with a 16-10 record.
"It definitely put a chip on our shoulder, and we talked about it during the season to stay focused and keep that chip on our shoulder," Hansen said.
"It really was a great season. I think in a lot of respects we really did overachieve this season. That speaks a lot to the character of the guys."
Although quick to credit the players for their scrappy performance against the odds this season, Hansen's steady hand and consistency in inspiring his players to overachieve this year has earned him the Auburn Reporter Coach of the Year award.
By the time he graduated in 1996 from Cascade High School in Leavenworth, Hansen's 2,411 career points made him the all-time leading high school scorer in Washington State history. Averaging 31 points as a junior, 34 as a senior, he was twice chosen state player of the year. His play at the shooting guard spot earned the 1A Kodiaks a third-place finish in 1994 and a sixth in 1995.
After high school Hansen enrolled at Walla Walla Community College where he continued to dominate, averaging 33 points as a sophomore and becoming the school's all-time leading scorer. His success as a Warrior earned him a spot on the Eastern Washington University roster, where he helped lead the Eagles to a Big Sky Conference his senior year.
Although he suffered a serious ACL injury just a month after graduating from Eastern, Hansen traveled to South Korea to continue his playing career.
"It didn't work out, so I came back and had the opportunity to continue to look for playing opportunities or throw my name in the hat for (the Auburn coaching job)," Hansen said. "I didn't really think I would have a good shot at it because I was 24 years old with very little coaching experience."
Yes, Hansen was green, but Auburn Athletic Director Bob Jones took a chance and hired him for the job in 2003.
"When the opportunity presented itself it was just too good to pass up," Hansen said. "But I had to really think hard about whether I wanted to continue to play or do something I knew I wanted to do, which was be a teacher and a coach."
Hansen said he threw himself headlong into his new gig immediately, with Jones' support.
"Bob just kind of let me do my thing," Hansen said. "He's always been there to answer questions for me, but he's never told me how to do things. I really couldn't ask for a better athletic director. He's been great to work with.
"I was young and had lots to learn about managing a program, just about dealing with teenagers and parents," Hansen said.
Now 11 years in, Hansen has helped make the Trojans a perennial contender in the SPSL 4A, no matter what the preseason polls say. He's led Auburn to state tourney appearances in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011.
More important, however, he's transformed the Auburn boys basketball program into more than just a sport — he's turned into a family.
"Our program is so much bigger than the head coach," Hansen said. "Everything works because of the support system and hard work by so many. From my wife working so hard behind the scenes to Tony Callero running my youth program and doing it the right way, to my assistant coaches who work so hard to my administrative staff that is always there to support me, and then finally to the hard work and dedication of my players, who continue to do everything I ask them to. A coach is only as great as the people around him, and I have great people around me."