Former Lynden Christian girls basketball coach Curt De Haan was named a National Coach of the Year Wednesday for his winning record and coaching philosophy that embraces the team first.
The National Federation of State High School Associations awarded 21 coaches in different sports nationwide.
De Haan, who retired as head coach in March, led the Lyncs for 34 years, and has the most wins of any girls basketball coach in the state. With a 772-149 record, he led the team to 31 state tournament appearances and eight state championships.
In his final year, De Haan’s record was 25-2, and the last game he coached was for the Class 1A state title against King’s.
Lynden head girls basketball coach Rob Adams said a huge part of De Haan’s consistent success was his ability to change up his strategy based on the talent he had that year.
“The years that he was able to move fast, he moved fast, and the years he had to be deliberate, he was deliberate,” said Adams, who has known De Haan for 16 years.
“Some coaches don’t adapt to change very well, but Curt and the career he has is not just being a great basketball coach but him being a great teacher too.”
More than that, De Haan built strong relationships with his players, more than 40 of whom have gone on to play in college.
“His no. 1 priority is stressing the importance of their walk with Christ,” Adams said. “He never deviated from the plan. Athletics has a huge role in young people lives, and it’s their walk with God that he stressed.”
De Haan is a Lynden native, graduating from Lynden High School in 1971 and going on to Washington State. He returned to Lynden Christian in 1975 to teach vocational agriculture, and coached the JV girls basketball team for four years before taking over the program in 1980.
Now Adams says the culture De Haan has built is ingrained in the community, because De Haan has coached many family members of his current players.
Among his influences, De Haan credits his parents and John Wooden, who led the UCLA men’s basketball team to 10 NCAA national championships. In games, De Haan would quote Wooden to his players “more than they would like,” he said.
One of De Haan’s favorite Wooden quotes, “Make every day your masterpiece” took on new meaning for De Haan seven years ago when he was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. The cancer is in remission now, but the experience illustrated a big part of his coaching philosophy.
“The life lessons we learn through adversity and the hard times are more important than the game itself,” DeHaan said.