Sports

Washington takes the reins

When the Oak Harbor boys basketball team hits the hardwood next year, there will be a new face at the helm.

Mike Washington, a chief petty officer in the Navy, was hired last week as the Wildcats’ new head coach.

“I feel like a kid, I’m really excited,” said Washington, of his new job.

Washington replaces Bryan Schulle, who resigned in the spring after posting a 22-80 record over five seasons. His teams were 2-38 the last two winters, prompting his decision to step aside.

“I have a very high regard for Bryan...I admire his decision to try and help the program move in a different direction,” OHHS athletic director Bob Smithson said.

Washington is new to the high school program, but he isn’t new to Oak Harbor basketball. The 34-year-old father of two has spent the last three years as the president of the Oak Harbor Youth Athletic Association — the local Amateur Athletic Union basketball organization for boys in grades 5-8.

He’s worked with and observed all the players who will return to next year’s varsity team and is well aware of the youth coming through the program.

“I’m pretty familiar with all the guys, there’s some real good players,” Washington said.

His familiarity with local youth, on top of his desire to turn the program around, made the hire easy for Smithson.

“To be perfectly honest, he probably doesn’t have the level of experience we were looking for, but he has the passion and enthusiasm we are looking for,” Smithson said.

Washington’s hire is also unique in that he is not a faculty member in the Oak Harbor School District — at least not yet. His is currently working toward a Master’s degree in English and when his retirement from the Navy is up in three years, he hopes to teach within the district.

“My plan is to teach at the high school, hopefully, if there’s an open position,” Washington said.

Washington’s coaching experience might be limited, but his knowledge of basketball is far from limited. He played four years of varsity basketball in Eastman, Ga., and has coached and played intramural and youth basketball since joining the Navy in 1990.

The new head coach already has an idea of what his team will focus on when it hits the floor next winter.

“I want us to be known as a defensive basketball team,” Washington said. “When people come here they are going to know that they are going to have to play very good offense to beat us because we are going to defend.”

Washington plans on instilling his philosophy all the way down through the AAU program and middle school programs by providing a program guide for coaches to follow.

“What I want is the program to be mirrored from my program at the high school all the way up through the 12th grade, along with the seventh and eighth grade middle school teams,” Washington said.

Scott Collins will join Washington as the head junior varsity and assistant varsity coach next year. The 1997 Mount Vernon High School graduate and new OHHS physical education teacher played in three state tournaments and started as a guard on the ‘97 Bulldog team which finished second in the state in 4A.

“He has great ideas and a style that fit in to where this program is headed,” Smithson said of Collins.

Oak Harbor players have already started working with their new coaches, taking part in a team camp at Seattle University this past week and Western Washington University this coming week.

And it shouldn’t take long for the players to learn how their new coach operates.

“Over the next three weeks we will be playing in over 20 games,” Washington said.

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