Brian Roper on the meaning of his Hall of Fame coaching
Lynden High School boys basketball coach Brian Roper called all the attention “a little bit uncomfortable.” But there he was anyway, a key part of a ceremony the last week in July in Ferndale that inducted him into the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“For me, the best part was the fact that I was able to share that with virtually all of my assistants past and present at Lynden and many from North Mason and Sequim, several former players and my family as well,” he says. “That was the absolute best part for me.”
Roper, along with Lynden Christian coach Roger DeBoer and Squalicum coach Dave Dickson, was inducted into the hall, making Roper the third Lynden coach (Jake Maberry and John Clark) to garner the award in its 41-year history.
Roper attributes his success at Lynden to the community. “Lynden has so many built-in advantages for a basketball coach when it comes to success,” he says. “We have talented athletes year after year, we have tremendous parental, administrative and financial support. I’d be the first to say it is not an even playing field. I realize you could be at a place with less advantages and do as good a job or better as I’ve done and not get this recognition.”
But don’t let the humility fool you. Roper has done outstanding work for Lynden. His 23-year career, which spans North Mason, Sequim and the last 11 at Lynden, includes a total win-loss mark of 381-174—good for a 68.6 winning percentage—11 state tournament appearances and a pair of state titles for the Lions in 2007 and 2012.
The Boise native and Seattle Pacific University graduate wasn’t always planning a career in coaching and teaching—he teaches U.S. history, government and world geography at Lynden High School, which can be seen in plays named after past U.S. presidents—but early influences in his life, including friends he made at Seattle Pacific who since landed in Lynden, encouraged him toward a path of instructing students.
“I think when you get into it, you tell yourself and want to believe that it is about helping kids,” he says. “But after the ups and downs of almost 30 years of teaching and coaching, you truly believe it.”
And that is why Roper was able to handle the spotlight the last month has placed on him, with multiple articles outlining his coaching style—a style loaded with class and humility, as referenced by former players and fellow coaches—in the Lynden Tribune and Bellingham Herald, because of what it allowed for him.
“I was able to stop and reflect,” he says. “I kept coming back to the friendships and relationships with assistant coaches, opponent coaches and certainly the players. And I had a lot of gratitude and thankfulness that I was able to do a job that I really enjoy, that tests me, that causes me to grow and I hope is about more than basketball. It is about helping kids grow up. That is always the goal.
“State championships are great, but they don’t complete you whether you are a player or a coach. It is the relationships and memories that transcend a trophy in a display case.”