WALLA WALLA — Bobbi Hazeltine’s career as the women’s basketball coach at Walla Walla Community College speaks for itself.
300 wins. A .738 winning percentage over 13 1/2 seasons.
Two Northwest Athletic Association of Community College championships and 12 trips to the NWAACC tournament.
And this season is shaping up to be one of the best, with the Warriors off to a 17-1 start in this, Hazeltine’s 14th year as head coach.
So what’s Hazeltine’s secret to success?
“I think it’s because we’re about more than basketball,” said Hazeltine.
“Obviously we win, but kids have to feel comfortable; they have to love it here. We’ve established a good environment. Kids love it here, parents love it.
“I think kids play harder because of their relationship with coaches,” Hazeltine said.
“We go after good kids and students first and that’s the truth.”
“The basketball stuff, the wins, have taken care of themselves,” Hazeltine said.
Warrior assistant coach and 2010 WWCC graduate Kati Isham agreed.
“It’s indescribable really,” Isham said.
“You don’t realize what kind of a person (Hazeltine) is until you leave. She’s more of a mentor than a coach.”
Isham returned to WWCC as an assistant coach this season after leading the Warriors to an NWAACC tournament in 2010 as a guard and going on to finish her college career at Boise State.
“She’s very basketball smart and knowledgeable,” Isham said of Hazeltine. “Everyone that goes through that program does pretty well at the next level because she’s so fundamentally sound in what she coaches here.”
Hazeltine began her career in coaching as an assistant at Moscow High School before graduating from the University of Idaho in 1983.
From there she went on to an extremely successful career as the head coach at Troy (Idaho) High School.
There she won five state championships as the girls basketball coach and four as volleyball coach.
But after 13 years, Hazeltine began to feel as though it was time to move on after a three-point loss in the 1999 state championship.
“I was just really upset,” Hazeltine said.
“I probably applied for this job just more out of emotion than anything. I thought, ‘I’ve done all I can do, it’s time to move on.”
And Hazeltine was no less successful at WWCC, winning the NWACC Tournament in 2001, just her second season on the job.
Now, Hazeltine, 52, said she has no plans to move on from Walla Walla, but she does evaluate whether she wants to continue coaching after each season.
“I don’t have plans to retire,” Hazeltine said.
“The camaraderie with the coaches is something I love, and the relationships with the players is another thing. If I’m still making a difference and doing something I love, I’m going to keep coaching.”