Fans of Anchorage high school sports may notice a familiar face among the college basketball coaches at the Carrs/Safeway Great Alaska Shootout this week.
Brad Lauwers, who coached West High to a runner-up finish in last season's Class 4A state basketball tournament, is serving as a volunteer assistant with the UAA men's team this season.
"He's fit seamlessly into our staff," UAA coach Rusty Osborne said. "He brings in a winning attitude. He has a lot of experience."
Lauwers and Osborne go way back, first meeting in 1989 as assistant basketball coaches at Southwest Texas State (now Texas State) in San Marcos, Texas. Lauwers and Osborne became such close friends that each was in the other's wedding.
"We kind of share that little bond," Lauwers said.
Because they both began their coaching careers in the same place, Lauwers and Osborne still share many of the same theories about basketball, although Osborne has tweaked his system a little over the years. "I don't feel like I'm starting from scratch with him," Lauwers said. "But I feel like I really got to pay attention."
Lauwers, 52, is working with graduate assistant Cameron Turner in coaching UAA's post players. So far, it has been a gratifying experience. After a recent shooting session in which Lauwers worked closely with junior guard Marcus Jackson, the Arizona State transfer did something that took Lauwers by surprise.
"When we were done, he just came over and said 'thank you, coach,' " Lauwers said.
Lauwers, who grew up in Anchorage, is a physical education teacher at Dimond, his alma mater. He said he resigned from his coaching job at West because it was difficult coaching the Eagles while working at Dimond, where his son Payton plays on the basketball team.
With UAA, Lauwers gets a chance to be around another son, Colton, a sophomore guard for the Seawolves. Lauwers said he treasures the experience, but knows not to overstep his bounds.
"I try to coach the other guys more, because he isn't going to listen to me," he said.
Lauwers began his career as a head coach more than 20 years ago at West. He coached the Eagles from 1989 to 1991 before taking a job as Dimond's JV coach and after one season of that, he took over the varsity squad for six seasons. After a one-year hiatus, Lauwers coached the Heritage Christian basketball team for 10 seasons, winning consecutive Class 3A state titles in 2005-06 and coaching current UAA guard Lonnie Ridgeway. When Heritage Christian closed its doors after the 2009-10 school year, Lauwers returned to West.
"I love coaching high school sports," Lauwers said. "I think it's what I'm best at."
When a head coaching vacancy arose at South High this summer, Lauwers applied for the job. He said he was one of two finalists, but the job went to Taylor Nerland.
"I'm where I'm supposed to be," Lauwers said. "It helps keep options open."
Osborne said the situation with UAA worked out perfectly for Lauwers, because the team practices at 3 p.m., right after Lauwers is done teaching at Dimond.
"Hopefully the situation is beneficial to him," Osborne said. "We hope it's a one-year deal and he's back coaching his own team in the future."