Barrett looks ahead to new challenges, leaves behind legacy at AR

Adam Barrett coached the Auburn Riverside High girls basketball team to a lot of wins during his five years there – more than 100 of them, to be exact.

Now, basketball has won him.

The coach of the state-powerhouse girls program suddenly stepped down this past Monday, departing not only the gymnasium, but the classroom, as well, where he taught health.

“I leave behind the teaching part, unfortunately, but my certificate had expired, and the education system makes you go back to get your masters or your professional certification. Pro cert is two years, masters is two to three years, and I just didn’t want to go back to school,” Barrett said.

“With me being more passionate about hoops, I just felt, ‘I’m going to pursue my passion for basketball.'”

That pursuit might be coaching at the college level or training players year-round. Barrett would say only that he has “some options, but I haven’t disclosed those. I’m going to have to make some decisions in the next three to four weeks.”

Barrett took over a team that had gone 5-13 during the 2002-03 season, not even coming close to the playoffs. In his first season, the Ravens went 12-4 in the South Puget Sound League North Division, 12-11 overall, and advanced to the Class 4A West Central-Southwest District tournament.

In 2005, Riverside went to state for the first time, winning one of its three games. By ’06, the Ravens had their first state trophy (sixth place in the 4A tournament), then came back-to-back Class 3A state titles: 56-46 against nationally-ranked Chief Sealth in 2007, and 48-40 against South King County rival Kennedy this past March.

“I’m leaving this program probably the best it ever has been,” said Barrett, who went 105-32 overall during his five years at the helm. “There are literal (NCAA) D-1 kids up and down that roster. I’m not leaving it in a shambles, not bailing out. Nichole (Jackson), Mercedes (Wetmore) and Kara (Jenkins) will lead that team to a state championship – I really believe that.”

Barrett said he came to his decision last weekend after the Ravens returned from a 24-day trip to tournaments in Oregon City, Chicago, Memphis and San Diego.

“By the time we got back, I had an opportunity to sit back and contemplate the summer,” said Barrett, acknowledging he’s an “early 30-something,” but wouldn’t be more specific than that. “I was excited about making another run at a state championship, the kids are set. We have some great kids coming back.

“I was sitting there, just kind of contemplating some things. I’ve always said that anytime my passion for one thing exceeds another, it’s time to pursue that passion,” Barrett added.

He called a team meeting last Monday night and made the announcement.

“We were all really shocked,” said Wetmore, who’ll be a junior this year, adding that she did not see it coming. “We’re really going to miss him. He’s the one who started everything and got us to this point. No one has ever seen anyone put so much passion and time into the game.”

Just as surprised was Katie Grad, who graduated in June and will continue her career at Washington State University after earning state tournament MVP honors this past March.

“No one really saw it coming. But everyone is going to support him on his decision,” Grad said. “He did a lot for people at Riverside. I wouldn’t be playing college basketball if it wasn’t for him. He definitely changed how people view the basketball program.”

Selling it

Barrett started changing those views from the get-go.

“When I first showed up, my goal and plan was to get to the state tournament in two years,” Barrett said. “If not, I think I would have left because I wasn’t getting the job done. Any good coach could get to a state tournament in two years. Once I had players and parents buy into my system, we would be competing for the state title year in and year out.”

It wasn’t necessarily an easy sale, though.

“That’s life – we all stay in our comfort zones. Basketball when I got there was in a comfort zone,” Barrett said. “When I came there with my vision – I’m going to take your kid, we’re going to travel all over in he summer, compete for league championships, state championship, D-1 scholarships – it didn’t fly over very well. If we weren’t winning state championships and not producing D-1 kids I don’t know if parents would buy into what I’m doing.”

There certainly were detractors.

Rumblings were out there about whether recruiting was going on or other rules were otherwise not being followed. Barrett was as much aware of those rumblings as anyone else.

“I don’t regret anything we’ve done there,” he said. “People want to sit there and badmouth Auburn Riverside or badmouth Coach Barrett for breaking the rules. But I was in contact with my principal and athletic director on everything. We felt good that we were abiding by the rules. The thing that frustrated me more than anything was that coaches want to sit back and complain, but don’t want to to do the work.”

Added school athletic director Doug Aubert, “What do you do to combat it except keep your nose clean and keep everything open.”

Doing the work is what stood out to Aubert, who said he has yet to discuss with principal Bruce Phillips the specifics for filling Barrett’s position.

“There aren’t a lot of coaches who worked as hard as he did – or are willing to,” Aubert said. “Each coach has to make their own look in the mirror and make their own decision. He was willing.

“He put 1,000 percent into it – no question of that.”

All hoops, all the time

Barrett, like every coach in every sport, is limited by state rules to working with his players just during the season and for a few weeks during the summer. He wants to get beyond those limits.

“Whether it’s coaching or training, it’ll be one of the two,” he said. “I can work with kids year-round and not just worry about winter and summer.

“Some states allow you to work with kids year-round. If that’s my passion, why not pursue that?” he added.

Still, he readily admits stepping down wasn’t easy.

“I thought I was going to be at Riverside for the rest of my life,” Barrett said. “Riverside is a dream come true. I never thought it would be that awesome.”

As much as Barrett loves to win – and he said the title-game victory against much-ballyhooed Chief Sealth in 2007 was “as big as it gets, playing on that stage in front of 9,500 people” – he didn’t cite titles or individual honors what he enjoyed the most.

“The big thing for me was that every kid who played for me, every senior, graduated and went onto college. All but two have had the opportunity to play basketball – one played soccer, and one ran track.

“That means a lot to me, that kids are fulfilling dreams.”

As Barrett goes off to fulfill his own, he sees no reason why Auburn Riverside shouldn’t contend for another title this year when it moves back up to Class 4A and rejoins the South Puget Sound League North Division, where state power Kentwood resides.

“I see that team competing for state championships every year for the next several years,” he said.

Wetmore knows it’ll be different, though.

“Going into it, we have to be more of a team than ever before,” she said.




League: 12-4.

Overall: 12-11.

Postseason: Lost in district playoffs.


League: 13-3.

Overall: 19-9.

Postseason: Qualified for state, won opener, then lost twice.


League: 17-1.

Overall: 22-7.

Postseason: Placed 6th at state.

2006-07 (switched from 4A to 3A)

League: 14-0.

Overall: 27-2.

Postseason: Won state, defeating Chief Sealth in final, 56-46.


League: 14-0.

Overall: 25-3.

Postseason: Won state, defeating Kennedy in final, 48-40.