LAUREL – Pat Hansen knows basketball.
He’s been a boys high school head coach for more than two decades, winning state championships at Class C Gardiner and at Class A Laurel. But last offseason, he elected to take on the challenge of coaching Laurel’s girls in addition to the guys.
It’s not a first in Montana, but it’s certainly a rarity in basketball.
Hansen recently took time to chat with MTN Sports about navigating the waters of not only freshman through varsity programs, but also junior high and youth teams.
MTN Sports: First season of coaching both guys and girls, what drives you to this challenge?
Pat Hansen: Well starting in Class C when I was there and had marathon games and spent a lot of time in the stands, and you’re always thinking to yourself and your a pretty competitive person, “You’re like hey, I might as well be doing more coaching, and then falling asleep a couple of times trying to stay awake. You know I spend a lot of time in the gym already, so I just think this is a good thing and am pretty thankful the school has allowed me this opportunity because I think it’s helped me become a better person, a better coach going forward.
MTN Sports: When you started, did you ever think there’d come a day when you eventually coached both boys and girls same season?
Hansen: Nah, I never thought that it would come to that point or do it and when coach resigned last year at the end of the year and I just thought to myself, well I wonder what it would be like if I could do it and I actually put through a couple of scenario’s and thought boy this could actually work and I’m just thankful it kind of all worked together.
MTN Sports: I have a son and a daughter, you have a son and a daughter, what’s the difference so far in managing the guys and girls?
Hansen: No, it’s actually pretty good, the girls want to compete and you know there’s a couple of times they snicker at me, I’m kind of wondering did I say something wrong or weird or what I’m doing but I think our relationship is actually pretty good. These girls are fun, they’re competitive, they’re athletic, they really want to be coached, and I’m just lucky to come in to a nice group of girls.
MTN Sports: What was the reaction from your wife and your daughter when you said alright this is what I want to do?
Hansen: Pretty much like everybody else, you’re crazy. (Laughs). And I think they understood that I was crazy enough that I could make it work.
MTN Sports: Well break down your day now for me, from freshman to JV to Varsity, I mean guys, girls, you’re putting in some hours.
Hansen: Yeah you know just starting now the junior high boys season started so I’m in the gym with them at 6 in the morning, kind of watching how I could be part of their program too going thru and then coming here after school and then you have your Varsity boys and girls back to back and then it’s usually watching film at night and then the biggest thing is on Sunday’s just got to make sure that classroom’s all organized, ready for the week so that I can spend time during the week and catch up on thing’s I need to.
MTN Sports: Could you have done this as a first year coach you think?
Hansen: No, no I think if I would have came in that first year, there’s no way I would have, I don’t know if I would have been educated enough, is probably the best way to say it.
MTN Sports: Have you at any point been ready to say look I’ve got my fill of coaching, I’m ready to wrap it up and then suddenly this fell into your lap, is there a time three years ago, four years ago that you were maybe ready to back away?
Hansen: There’s always a situation that makes you think if you want to continue to do it, but you know the passion of enjoying coaching and then the kids, just the different types of kids you get throughout the years and the families and the relationships that you get to create, that just seems to suck you right back into it.
MTN Sports: How many years have you been at it now as a head coach?
Hansen: Oh gosh, overall, as a coach, 24 years I think.
MTN Sports: How different are you today on the court, than you were when you started 24 years ago?
Hansen: I’ve learned not to let things I can’t control bother me. It’s more so about the effort, and the execution more or less than things we can’t control and I think learning to do that has really helped the players around me understand, just control the things we can.
MTN Sports: You touched on it a couple of minutes ago, but you pretty much live in the gym, how much of it do you take home?
Hansen: Well the rule is I can’t take it home, but it comes with us, yeah we’re a pretty sports minded family so yeah I think it’s better to take it home, so I can come back refreshed. It’s kind of nice, you know my wife is very organized, and Mike and Barb are good friends of ours, they’re really just like a brother and sister to us, they spend a lot of time with our kids, so actually, without their help there’s no way we could do it. I’m just pretty thankful that my kids like being in the gym, too.
MTN Sports: Is it as busy as a life style as you’d figure’d it be, in these first few months?
Pat Hansen: It is, just the logistics part of it, making sure the games were scheduled, the traveling and the meals, that’s the busy part of it, the extra film, I’m kind of a freak I like watching film, I like breaking things down, I enjoy doing that, so a little more time on film, but just more so just the logistics of everything.
MTN Sports: Game night, class A usually girls are home, guys are away or vice a versa but this year they’ve worked with you, Eastern A schools, talk about that?
Hansen: You know I think the state’s kind of going that way, this year Class C is the only school not doing a combined state tournament, next year, they’re going combined and I think it was going to stacked games anyways and so with that being said I think the parents are enjoying coming to watch both genders and both kids instead of being separated, frees up gym space for the kids, frees up gym space time for the schools and I just think it gives a better environment for the kids.
MTN Sports: You also managed to coach your son’s youth team and you’re talking about 4th and 5th graders as opposed to varsity high school players, how do you balance that and make it fun for the younger kids but still teach?
Hansen: Well coaching the younger kids really put things in perspective. And I remember one time asking my son what were you thinking, and he say’s “I don’t know, I was 8 years old.” And I thought to myself, what a great response you know and right there just little things that kids don’t try to make a mistake, they play their heart out, they just need to be refocused sometimes but it teaches you to teach the game and that’s what’s the most important thing, understand that kid’s make mistakes because they may not be taught correctly or they don’t understand and just help them through it.