After stepping down at W.F. West in 2015, new Tenino boys basketball coach Ryan Robertson made it clear that he was far removed from hanging up his clipboard.
At the time, Robertson said he had “a lot of coaching” left in the tank.
Seven years later, after spending most of his coaching hiatus with a striped shirt with a whistle officiating in the area, Robertson will break out his clipboard and schemes once again.
Though several schools over the years made enticing offers to have Robertson return to the coaching ranks, a chance to return to his roots and coach at a court named after one of his biggest mentors was too good to pass up.
Robertson lived and breathed Tenino athletics as a kid in the Stone City, playing for legendary coach Dick Brock and serving as his ball boy growing up.
“To coach on that floor again is going to be a great honor,” Robertson said. “Being able to bring that connection back is pretty cool.”
Despite seven years away, Brock’s influence is still incredibly important to Robertson.
“Coach Brock had a basketball mind that was hard to describe,” he said. “His signature thing was defense, he broke everything down to the smallest things. That’s the most important thing I took from him.
“When I coach it’s his voice in my ear all the time.”
Now Robertson will be tasked with continuing a Beaver rebuild. Tenino hasn’t made the state tournament in boys hoops in over a decade, and has consistently started underclassmen each of the past few seasons.
But despite that, Robertson sees the potential in what has already been built in Tenino.
When new Beavers athletic director Nick Bamer offered the job, it was a no-brainer.
“I’m going to come in and do my philosophy,” Robertson said. “We’re going to work hard and improve defensively, we’re going to improve our tempo and pace. I like our versatility. We’ll run an offense that’s positionless. We can build with them, I love that they’re young.”
Robertson said that a physical, man defense will still be a staple in his system, with some tricky zone sets sprinkled in. With an emphasis on the defensive side of the ball, he’s hoping it’ll create better looks for guys to generate easier shots than their opponents.
On offense, it’ll be about developing his players to play anywhere on the floor, and being able to get to their spots on the floor for good looks.
“My teams normally play together very well,” Robertson said. “We’ll hope to be a little bit more disciplined on offense. We’ll run a motion with structured options. I have a lot of set plays that get the person the shot that they want to have. That’s really valuable. Some really good sets against zones.”
Additionally, Robertson thinks his seven years as a local official will only help. He won’t be the same coach he was when he turned in his clipboard in Chehalis years ago.
The longtime basketball vet saw some of the top programs in the state, and how their coaches ran things, and will take all that into consideration when stepping back on the floor as a coach himself.
“Every school is different,” he said. “That was the best thing about reffing. I was in so many gyms, I saw so many different styles. Being an official you can feel that side of it. But seeing how coaches interact with their players. I learned from watching coaches' styles of play.”
All that mixed with returning home, and the opportunity to work with two guys he’s gotten to know very well in Bamer and new principal Scott Hyder, are reasons why Robertson jumped at this chance.
“I appreciate Nick Bamer and Scott Hyder for giving me this opportunity. (Bamer) is a perfect example of a guy that changed the culture at Winlock. The stands are full of fans, that was enticing for me to be able to work with Nick.”
Robertson refereed many of Bamer’s games at Winlock, and actually coached Hyder when the new principal was a stud hurdler for the Beavers.
With newfound experiences, and old ones, to take from his long basketball career, Robertson is looking forward to continuing to build up a program looking for a resurgence.
“Tenino is a close-knit town that you can build stuff around,” Robertson said. “There is success out here, we need to work on continuing to improve the culture. I’m going to come in and bring my energy and help how I can.”