There are four new head coaches among our 22 Whatcom County varsity teams this season, but two of them are hardly new to the Northwest Conference and the other two may be new to head coaching but not to Whatcom hoops.
Rob Adams is back on the bench for the Lynden girls, who he previously led to three state titles. He replaced Vic Wolffis, who takes over the Blaine girls program.
The other two — Nooksack Valley boys coach Jason Heutink and Ferndale boys coach Luke DuChesne — are familiar faces to local fans. Heutink returns to his alma mater, where he helped the Pioneers win the 2003 state title, and DuChesne was an assistant for the Sehome boys last season when they reached the state tournament.
Here’s an in-depth look at each of our new coaches:
Rob Adams, Lynden girls
Background: The Blaine native starred on coach Rob Ridnour’s teams that took third at state in 1990 and fourth in 1991, Adams’s senior season. He went on to graduate from Eastern Washington University. After a career in real estate and education, he retired three years ago and is enjoying playing golf. He and wife Julie have two boys, one in college and the other a sophomore at Lynden.
Coaching experience: Adams assisted Ridnour at Blaine during the Borderites’ state championship seasons in 1999 and 2000. He also assisted and later replaced Patrick Green as the Blaine girls coach for two years and coached Blaine fastpitch. In his 13 years coaching the Lynden girls, the Lions qualifying for state 12 times, earned 10 state trophies, and won state championships in 2009, 2017, and 2020. Since then he has stayed involved by coaching his youngest son’s AAU team.
Outlook: Adams’ last Lions team — the 2020 state championship squad — was one of Whatcom County’s all-time best. This season’s team will have a hard time reaching that standard, but the building blocks are there for another outstanding squad. Having lost only two seniors, the returnees are a year stronger and will be pushed by some talented youngsters ready to explode onto the scene.
Quote: “I think (former Villanova men’s coach) Jay Wright said it best when he said, ‘We practice to create habits, that will make us successful in the most difficult situations.’ We have only had 12 practices to get ready for a long journey together. I was reminded the other day that we don’t have a single player in our program that has ever won a game at the state tournament. So we have focused on stacking good days on top of one another.”
Luke DuChesne, Ferndale boys
Background: DuChesne grew up “all over” thanks to a father who was a high school and college basketball coach. DuChesne attended elementary school on Camano Island; middle school in Missoula, Mont.; and graduated from Mountain View High in Vancouver, Wash., where he starred in basketball and in football under former Ferndale head coach Adam Mathieson. He started two years at Everett Community College before finishing his education at Western Washington University. DuChesne is currently student teaching at Ferndale High and pursuing a master’s degree in special education. His wife, Abby, is interning at Skyline Elementary in Ferndale to become a school counselor.
Coaching experience: DuChesne started his coaching career with the Sehome C team football and basketball teams his senior year of college (2016-17). He also helped out with the varsity football team and was head football coach at Fairhaven Middle School for one season. After a couple of years off, he rejoined the Sehome basketball staff as Brad Jackson’s assistant and JV coach last season.
Outlook: Despite losing seven seniors to graduation, Ferndale had another great turnout and will field three teams. The returning players are a competitive group with a lot of basketball experience. The new players are following the veterans’ lead and DuChesne has been impressed with the boys’ buy-in. The team’s motto this year is “Trust, Tough, Together,” and the coach said the Golden Eagles will need to embrace it as they compete each night in the tough Northwest Conference.
Quote: “As our motto says, it is important to play hard and play together. We know that will put our team in a position to succeed this year and get better every day.”
Jason Heutink, Nooksack Valley boys
Background: The 2003 Nooksack grad has deep roots in the Valley. Grandpa Harold Heutink was an all-star on Nooksack’s 1949 state team, dad Rocky was an all-stater in 1972, and uncle Kelly won a state title in 1974. Jason left his own legacy, helping the Pioneers reach state all four of his years and earning all-state honors while leading Nooksack to a state title his senior season. After attending Pacific Lutheran University and Whatcom Community College, Heutink got his real estate license and is a broker/realtor for Windermere in Lynden. He and wife Malarie have three children. Their oldest, Caden, is a junior on the boys team.
Coaching experience: Heutink has coached boys youth teams at the AAU and select levels and has coached most of the current Pioneers as they’ve grown up.
Outlook: The Pioneers have been building for this season after having had two of the youngest teams in the league the past two seasons. The seniors will provide leadership and the junior class is deep and talented, which means Nooksack Valley is ready to make a playoff run and return to Yakima for the first time since 2011. But, as usual, the Northwest Conference is loaded and nothing will come easy.
Quote: “What I want is a team that is always hard working and that you never count out. I’m not saying we will win anything, but I’m not saying we’ll lose any either. I want to try and bring Nooksack to where it was — where the players expect to win.”
Vic Wolffis, Blaine girls
Background: Wolffis grew up in Michigan playing soccer, baseball, and basketball in high school. An education graduate of Calvin College (Mich.), he went into teaching and coaching and has taught social studies at Mount Vernon High School for the past 13 years. He and wife Nancy have three grown children.
Coaching experience: Wolffis has coached a variety of sports for the past 34 years, 21 of them in boys basketball at Lynden Christian at various levels, including head coach for the 2006 Class 2A and 1999 Class 1A state championships. He also coached Mount Vernon varsity boys basketball for four years, Squalicum varsity girls for three years, Meridian varsity girls for one season year, and the Lynden varsity girls the past two seasons, taking the Lions to state both years. In 24 years as a head coach, he has a 351-225 record with seven top-five state finishes.
Outlook: With only nine girls turning out, Wolffis is truly trying to build a program from the ground up. Fortunately, he has a strong senior class that brings three years of varsity experience with the orange and black. Although the going will be tough in the ultra-competitive Northwest Conference, the Borderites will be looking for more than just moral victories.
Quote: “‘The past is kind enough to give you lessons. The present is kind enough to give you opportunities. The future is kind enough to give you both.’ This season depends, in large part on lessons learned, opportunities seized, and a future well pursued.”