An Interview With Retiring Lynden Girls Coach Rob Adams

While the ending wasn’t exactly the way he scripted it, Rob Adams’s retirement as Lynden girls basketball coach still came at the right time.

After 13 years and three state championships, Adams announced his resignation on Thursday, March 26, so that he can spend more time with his family and be able to follow his teenage sons’ athletic careers.

“Ever since we won it (state) in ’08-09, I’ve had the conversation with my oldest son every year,” said Adams. “I never wanted this to be a situation where I was choosing one over the other. And every year he was, ‘Dad, go for it.’

“Then high school snuck up on us. And this year, with him having a great JV year and suiting up for the varsity … that was the exclamation point.”

Adams praised his wife, Julie, for often watching their sons — Dawson, a sophomore at Lynden High, and Spencer, a seventh-grader at Lynden Middle School — play basketball and baseball while Adams was busy coaching the girls teams.

But at this year’s state tournaments in Yakima, he was able to do both as Dawson played on the Lions squad that placed third in state and Adams finished his coaching career by guiding the girls team to a Class 2A state championship.

“It’s like wearing two different hats,” said Adams. “My coach’s hat doesn’t want to be gone, but my Dad hat … when I sat back at the state tournament this year, the Dad hat is the one I really wanted to wear.”

Timing wasn’t the best for resignation

If there was a disappointment for Adams, it was the timing of the resignation. After working with his coaching staff the past two years to prepare for the moment when he would step down, he wanted to announce it after this year’s team banquet.

But then the coronavirus pandemic closed schools and canceled all athletic activities. Instead, Adams met for coffee with three of his returning players — keeping social distancing, he added — and told them that the time had come.

“That was the hardest part in this whole entire thing for me … to find the (right) time,” said Adams. “I couldn’t prolong it any further. I don’t want my resignation to get in the way of our future.

“They deserved to hear it from me and not social media. I wanted them to know this decision had been put in play even before our season started, that this had nothing to do with winning a state title. They were at peace with that. They understood what it means to be a parent. After talking to them, I was at peace with my decision.”

Leaving behind a winning legacy

Adams leaves behind a Hall of Fame-worthy legacy fittingly crowned with this year’s 27-1 squad roaring through the 2A tournament and winning the state championship game by 22 points less than three weeks ago.

In Adams’ 13 years at the helm, the Lions:

  • Went 261-86 (.752)
  • Qualified for state 12 times
  • Earned 10 state trophies, including one each of the past seven years
  • Placed five times in the top three at state
  • Won state championships in 2009, 2017, and 2020

Of all the games, Adams said two stand out in part because they epitomize the character of his teams.

The first was in his first year, when the Lions found themselves down by 22 to Mount Baker late in the third quarter of a loser-out, winner-to-state district game only to rally to win by eight points.

The second was in 2009, when the Lions faced undefeated Archbishop Murphy in the state title game, a squad that had beaten Lynden so badly in the district championship game that the Wildcats were already putting on “district champions” t-shirts in the fourth quarter.

But in the state final the Lions led almost from start to finish, claiming Adams’ first — and Lynden’s first — state championship.

“That mental toughness, that grit to come back, to be down but come back and say ‘All we want is one more shot at you’ …,” said Adams. “That epitomized what we’ve done for 13 years.

“For me the part that I’m most proud of is ‘the fist’ — the five things we stand for: standards, the next play, enthusiasm, collective responsibility, and pride. We started my 13 years with that, and we finished the 13 years with that.”

Remembering those along the way

The coach said it meant a lot to him when former players came back and talked specifically about those five characteristics and what they meant to them as adults.

“To hear them … that cemented that we did it the right way,” said Adams.

Looking back, Adams mentioned several coaches who had impacted him and his philosophy of coaching. Not surprisingly, many are Hall of Famers in their own right.

Adams starred at Blaine on coach Rob Ridnour’s teams that took third at state in 1990 and fourth in 1991. He would go on to assist Ridnour at Blaine during the Borderites’ state championship seasons in 1999 and 2000. Adams also assisted and later replaced Patrick Green as the Blaine girls coach.

In addition, Adams counted among his mentors and colleagues Lynden Christian coach Brady Bomber and former LC coach Curt DeHaan, the state’s winningest girls basketball coach, as well as Lynden boys basketball coach Brian Roper and Lynden athletic director Mike McKee.

“My experience in basketball has been incredible,” said Adams. “All the people … I’m so appreciative. It’s been a tremendous experience, one I’ll look back on with super fond memories.”

And although there were scores of players to remember — from all-staters to reserves who rarely played — the only one Adams singled out was Ashtyn Van Dalen, whose story this past season has showed how much the Lynden program emphasized being a family.

“Ashtyn Van Dalen … to make sure she got to play (in the state championship game),” said Adams. “To get to experience that … when you script it out, you couldn’t have it be any better.”

Keeping the tradition going

Despite losing six seniors, the Lions return starters Faith Baar and Anna VanderYacht as well as fellow juniors Riley Anderson and Madison Canales, sophomores Ashlyn Alexander and Samantha Villars, and freshman Adia Newcomb.

Adams said he is excited about the team’s potential, especially in the hands of his assistants — Aaron Bogaard, Ryan Dykstra, Mason Kleindel, Helen Newcomb and Ladd Shumway.

“I don’t want the program to slow down, I want it to keep going forward,” said Adams. “My goal was for it to continue to get better. … For all the kids coming back, I want them to have this much success whether I’m there or not.”

Ashtyn Van Dalen’s story:
Lynden’s state championship game story:
Rob Adams’s coach of the year award:

Jim Carberry of Whatcom Hoops

Jim Carberry is a former Bellingham Herald sports editor and author of several books on Whatcom County prep basketball. Follow him on Twitter @whatcomhoops and visit the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.

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