Head Coach Brian Roper led Lynden High School to win four of the last five 2A state championships. Thirty years ago at North Mason High School, Roper coached his first season without winning a single game.
Two former players who were there for North Mason’s 0-20 season are now successful girl’s high school basketball coaches.
Josh Madsen, one of those former players, has been coaching at Warden High School for six years. Last year, his team placed third at state. The year before that, they won.
Madsen rotated between junior varsity and varsity for Roper’s first season as head coach. He jokes with Roper that he was 0-40 his first year, as junior varsity didn’t win a single game that season either.
Brady Bomber is Roper’s other former player turned coach. He has been coaching at Lynden Christian High School for 10 years and has won three state titles.
Both Bomber and Madsen give immense praise and acknowledge Roper as a key figure in their decision to coach high school basketball.
“Coach Roper is a great leader,” Bomber said. “He's a humble man. He’s a man of faith, high character and integrity, who cares about people.”
Roper has been cemented in the Washington State Basketball Hall of Fame since 2016. But, coaching wasn’t always his plan.
Roper grew up in Boise, Idaho and attended Seattle Pacific University where he earned an English degree. After college, Roper took a position at Boeing in Everett, Wash. Roper felt unsatisfied with his position at Boeing, so he called the University of Washington and asked how to get into their education program.
After going back for his teaching degree, Roper was hired as an assistant coach at Edmonds and Arlington high schools before landing his first head coaching job at North Mason, a program that had gone 3-57 the past three seasons.
“I wasn't sure what I wanted to do,” Roper said. “There was always something about coaching basketball that drew me to it. I loved the game, the camaraderie. I missed the feeling of being on a team.”
Apart from coaching, Roper now teaches history and government at Lynden High School. His love for the game and desire to help young people grow as human beings has led him to continue coaching for nearly three decades.
Roper is acclaimed by his peers for his ability to remain calm in intense situations. He’s stressed the importance of finding your own coaching style to other coaches seeking guidance.
“I'm not a yeller or a screamer, and I wouldn't want to be,” Roper said. “Even if I tried to be, it wouldn't be very effective because that's just not who I am. I think that finding your voice, whether it's teaching or coaching, takes time, and it's important to be true to who you are.”
While Roper has an innate ability to impart wisdom to his coaching disciples, Madsen and Bomber are more impressed by his ability to listen. When Madsen tried to get back into high school coaching after taking a break, he went to seek advice from Roper.
“Coming back into coaching, just being able to reach out to him, he was quick to call back and always had time for me,” Madsen said. “I remember one of our first conversations, he talked like he wanted to learn from me, and I was blown away by that. I felt like I had nothing to offer him."
Roper said his style is to surround himself with good coaches and let them work. He said each coach has different responsibilities and they all excel at their respective roles. While winning basketball games and doing well as a team is important to Roper, it’s just one aspect of the beauty of basketball.
“I love everything associated with [basketball], which is probably why I've been able to do it so long – from the squeak of the shoes to the smell of popcorn,” Roper said. “I love Saturday morning – getting up early, drinking my coffee and planning practice. Seeing players take a charge or make an extra pass, or come in early or stay late. Seeing a team that starts as individuals come together as a team. I love all those things, but most of all, I love the people.”
Mathew Callaghan (he/him) is a senior sports reporter for the Front this quarter. He plans to major in journalism and minor in law, diversity and justice through Fairhaven. In his free time, Mathew likes to write, hike, read and play basketball.
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.