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The new-look Whatcom Community College athletics

Young WCC athletic regime turning program around through community engagement

Rob Pedicone looks on during Whatcom Community College’s men’s basketball win-and-you’re-in season finale on Feb. 28, in Bellingham, Wash. The Orcas lost the game 106-100. // Photo by David Loudon.

Whatcom Community College’s Athletic Director Rob Pedicone sits hidden in an office at the back of the school’s pavilion. His walls are covered with calendars, schedules and other documents listing things he needs to do. Two pairs of basketball shoes rest atop a filing cabinet in the corner of the room. Boxes, bags and additional paperwork are scattered around. An essential oil diffuser emitting a “calming” scent runs throughout the day.

“As you can see with the state of my office, every day is a new day,” he said.

Pedicone, 33, was hired as WCC’s AD in June of 2022. He had come from an assistant AD position at Green River College, where he spent four years as the recreation and athletics coordinator before being promoted to assistant AD in 2021.

During that same time in 2018-19, The Orcas’ 26-year-old men’s basketball coach, Alex Sommerfield, was playing for Green River.

Sommerfield joined the WCC coaching staff as an assistant in August 2022 after finishing his playing career at Lewis-Clark State College, hired by former head coach Jerome Jenkins. 

Jenkins abruptly left the team about a week after Sommerfield’s hiring to begin coaching at Fresno State University. Sommerfield remembers the call from Jenkins — where Jenkins told him that he was “going to change [Sommerfield’s] life.”

After an urgent coaching search, Pedicone decided to promote Sommerfield to the role of interim head coach for the 2022-23 season.

The Orcas finished the season with a record of 5-22. Despite the poor record, however, Sommerfield’s team managed to win their first conference game in 637 days with a 98-90 victory over Shoreline Community College on Feb. 1, 2023.

After the season, Pedicone felt that Sommerfield proved enough to be named the team’s permanent head coach, allowing Sommerfield to begin recruiting his own players and creating his own team.

“I wasn’t prepared in terms of, I didn’t have a whole summer to think this through or get to know my personnel really, develop all these relationships with these guys,” Sommerfield said.

With only one player returning to the roster for the 2023-24 season, Sommerfield used the offseason to focus on recruiting players in Whatcom and Skagit County. 

WCC Athletics 2

Alex Sommerfield calls out to his players during Whatcom Community College’s men’s basketball win-and-you’re-in season finale on Feb. 28, in Bellingham, Wash. Sommerfield completed his second season leading the Orcas. // Photo by David Loudon.

“There’s a lot of talent here — Sehome, Lynden, Blaine, Everson, Nooksack, Ferndale — and I want to get all of them here,” Sommerfield said. “But I think that recent coaches, within maybe the past five-ish years, didn’t always bring in that local talent, they went elsewhere. So, it turned a lot of guys off. There’s relationship repairing I need to do in the community to bring those guys in.”

While the local relationships remain a work in progress, the Orcas found new success with Sommerfield’s recruits, finishing the season with a record of 15-13 and a conference record of 6-8. WCC had previously only amassed 6 total conference wins between 2019 and 2023. The team barely missed the playoffs after a 6-point win-and-you’re-in loss against Everett Community College on Feb. 28 to close the season.

Sommerfield views this season as a stepping stone to greater success in the future.

“It’s getting better slowly,” Sommerfield said. “A lot of local high school kids reach out to me. I want them to know that if you’re a local kid around Whatcom County or even Skagit County, [WCC] wants you to be here.”

While Sommerfield’s relationship building relies primarily on local high schools, Pedicone’s focus is often on community groups and families.

“The community connections I try to focus on is how do we get people [to WCC games]. Or the Boys and Girls Club practices, [we’ll] send our basketball team down there to play with the kids for a night, stuff like that,” Pedicone said. “So, just making sure that we’re showing the community that we care, and also inviting them to a fun experience.”

Pedicone is relied upon to make sure all these events go smoothly, in addition to the games themselves. He’s tasked with updating box scores, uploading video and most importantly, making sure student-athletes get the resources they need.

“If you’re talking to Western, they have a full game day operational manager, they have assistant director of marketing, they have all these positions,” Pedicone said. “Those don't quite happen at this level. So, I kind of do wear all the hats in a way. The student athlete is always going to be my top priority. I think the biggest thing is just trying to be authentic with people.”

Pedicone’s second and most recent hire came in the February appointment of 26-year-old Isaac Sam as head coach of the women’s soccer team. Sam was hired after the Orcas finished a disappointing 2023 season with a 4-10 record, two of the four wins coming as the result of a forfeit.

Sam begins his coaching tenure in a similar position to Sommerfield as a young, first-time head coach expected to revive a struggling program. Sam preaches continuous growth and setting lofty goals for yourself — “daring to dream,” as he calls it.

"My responsibility as the coach is to connect to the athletes. And once the connection is built, we can all focus on the goal through preparation and hard work, overcoming challenges together and enjoying the highs and lows of the journey,” he said.

As Sam looks to connect with his players, he first needs to get them on the team. Only five players from last year’s squad expect to play in 2024, which leaves an open roster for Sam to fill.

“Right now, most of my efforts are in recruiting. The goal is to bolster the roster numbers and build leadership with the existing players that are present to help propel the team forward once we have all the recruits in,” he said.

Through two coaching hires, Pedicone is creating a fresh new look for WCC athletics. With the recent departure of the Orcas’ women’s basketball coach, Pedicone is soon to make his third hire. Sommerfield has already proven himself capable of turning his program around and Sam looks to do the same with his. Not only do the three hope for success of their athletes in and away from their respective sport, but for the surrounding community that supports what they do.

“We work at a community college, and I think it’s important to make connections with the community,” Pedicone said. “I think there’s just a certain role for someone in my position that should be boosting up others [which] boosts us up too and make[s] us a better community, as simple as that is. And I think sport is a great vehicle for social promotion, social connection and social change.”

Andrew Foster

Andrew Foster (he/him) is the editor-in-chief for The Front this quarter. He is majoring in journalism and enjoys playing, watching and writing about basketball. 

You can reach him at

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