Thomas Ostrander takes over Lion boys hoop

Thomas Ostrander is the new Auburn Mountainview boys basketball head coach. - Shawn Skager/Reporter
Thomas Ostrander is the new Auburn Mountainview boys basketball head coach.
— image credit: Shawn Skager/Reporter

Success has eluded the Auburn Mountainview boys basketball team.

In the eight years that have elapsed since the school's 2005 opening, the Lion boys have yet to enjoy a berth in the 3A Washington State Boys Basketball tourney.

Thomas Ostrander hopes to change that.

"I think one thing that I really want to do is to help build this program, where year-after-year we're competing for league, district and state championships," said Ostrander, 31. "I think sustainable success is the goal here. We don't want to have two great years, then fall off and have to rebuild. We just want to reload every year, rather than rebuild."

Next season, Ostrander, who resigned this spring after six successful seasons as the head coach of the Bonney Lake girls basketball team, takes over the Lion program from former-coach Terry Johnson, who left to accept a coaching position in Tennessee.

Ostrander, a Yakima native, graduated from East Valley High School in 2001.

During his prep career, the three-sport star – football, basketball and soccer – earned all-state honors in all three sports. After graduation, Ostrander was rewarded with a full-ride scholarship to play wide receiver for the Washington State University Cougars in Pullman.

"Basketball was always my favorite sport growing up," he said. "I had some D2 offers, but I was just a D1 football player, not a D1 basketball player. It was tough to pass up a full-ride scholarship to a Pac 10 school."

"I was there at the end of the glory years, so I went to the Sun Bowl, the Holiday Bowl and the Rose Bowl while I was there," Ostrander added.

During his final year of college, Ostrander married his wife, Destiny.

"She's a teacher as well," Ostrander said. "We both went and did our student teaching abroad in Germany (after graduation)."

After their time overseas, the Ostranders moved to Western Washington, where Destiny had spent her childhood.

When Ostrander finished his student teaching, he and his wife started subbing for local school districts.

"We were doing that at a lot of districts, Orting, Bethel, Puyallup and Sumner," he said.

While Ostrander was subbing at Bonney Lake, football coach and assistant principal Jeff Gardner offered him a job coaching football.

"I had a connection because he used to be the Puyallup football coach," Ostrander said. "My roommates in college used to be Marty Martin and Colin Henderson, who both played for Jeff. He asked if I was interested in coaching football, and I said yes, especially if it helps me get a teaching job. So I started coaching there in the spring (of 2007), and then I got hired to be a social studies teacher there at Bonney Lake."

In short order, Gardner offered Ostrander the Panther girls basketball head coaching job.

Although he had previously said he had no experience coaching basketball or girls, the offer "intrigued" him. He applied and got the gig.

Over the next six years, Ostrander transformed the Lady Panther's program, taking a team that had won just 10 contests in three seasons – including just three the year before Ostrander took over – and turning it into a perennial powerhouse.

"The next year we were one game away from the state tournament, we actually lost to Auburn Mountainview in a loser-out, winner-to-state tournament game," Ostrander said. "My first year we won 18 games."

During his tenure, the Bonney Lake girls made it to the playoffs all six years, amassed 85 wins and played in two Washington State 3A Girls Basketball tournaments.

"I'm just really proud of the way we were able to turn that program around and get it established," Ostrander said. "It was really hard to leave. I had been approached twice to take over the Bonney Lake boys job. It was a pretty easy answer at the time because I didn't feel that the girls were established yet. Plus. I really enjoyed coaching them and didn't have a need to go do anything else."

Now, content with having helped establish a tradition of success at Bonney Lake, Ostrander hopes to do the same with the boys at Auburn Mountainview.

"This time around I really was ready for a new challenge," he said. "I knew the girls program was going to be really good again."

Ostrander continued:

"This is a great school with an awesome administration and very supportive towards athletics, which is huge for a coach," Ostrander said.

Add in the offer of becoming Auburn Mountainview's new dean of students and the chance to work with former rival and friend Chris Carr, and the job was too good to turn down.

"Becoming the dean of students here was huge," he said. "I was ready to get in more of a leadership role, as far as the education part goes. I've taught for seven years and have my master's in administration. And that's something I've really desired to do, move up as far as that goes. So that was really enticing."

On the court, Ostrander hopes to establish a winning tradition.

"One of the best compliments you can have as a coach is people saying your kids are disciplined and tough," Ostrander said. "I think we're going to really establish an identity of toughness, and along with that, being a great defensive team."

Judging by the cards he's been dealt, with a slew of talent returning for the Lions, it may not be long before the team finds itself in the state tourney.

"It's not like what I stepped into at Bonney Lake with the girls," he said. "Here, there are some basketball players, there are some pieces in place. Terry Johnson did a great job, he was a heck of a coach. So these kids have been coached up, so it's just building on what they know and helping them to continue to grow."

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