Kim West’s global basketball tour started in Tacoma.
Then it took her to Santa Clara and Oregon State. Then Los Angeles to an invite to play in the WNBA for the Sparks. It took her across the Atlantic Ocean to Greece, Israel, Slovakia, Spain, Italy and Latvia and then to London to play for Great Britain in the 2012 Olympic Games.
But Tacoma was never really that far away.
“I mean, when we have the weather outside right now (referring to a sunny Friday afternoon), there’s no better place,” West said.
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And there was no better place than Bellarmine Prep.
West was hired as the Lions’ next girls basketball coach this week, earning a promotion from her post as an assistant under Kevin Meines, who resigned to focus on his health and his new administrative position at Bellarmine.
Bellarmine is coming off its best season in school history — even better than when West played there — after placing third in the Tacoma Dome. The Lions upset No. 1 and previously unbeaten Central Valley (and its Stanford-bound twins) before losing to eventual state-champion Kentridge in the semifinals.
And Bellarmine should return all but two players from the team, including Arizona commit Shalyse Smith — who might be the school’s best power forward since Kim West was Kim Butler. She married her high school sweetheart, Jordan West.
“Though I had to teach him how to pass a basketball,” she said.
West graduated from Bellarmine in 2001 and helped the Lions reached the Kingdome in Seattle in back-to-back seasons in 1999 and 2000.
“I got to play in the Olympics, and I still remember playing in the Kingdome in my Lions jersey,” West said. “I really do.
“I know we want to keep establishing ourselves as one of the best teams in the state and as a leading contender. But the biggest thing for all of us to understand is that it’s a child’s game. For so long as a professional it was a job. But just to realize that having fun can be a motivational factor and being a good teammate. I want to cultivate a culture of leadership, and hopefully some of these young ladies will have the best experience of their lives.”
Butler was a standout soccer, basketball and track and field athlete at Bellarmine, earning all-state honors in soccer. And she still holds the school’s third-best mark ever in the shot put (37 feet, 5 inches).
She then earned a scholarship to play at Santa Clara before she transferred to play her final two years at Oregon State, where she was the second-leading scorer in the then Pac-10 her final year.
West then earned a training camp invite with the Los Angeles Sparks before heading overseas. She qualified for Great Britain’s first Olympic team for the 2012 games through her father, who is British.
“I’m extremely passionate about the game of basketball,” West said. “I’ve dedicated most of my life to it as a player. And now as a coach, I couldn’t be more honored or excited for this.”
She played one more season with Latvia after the Olympics before coming home to Tacoma. She’s spent the past four years as an assistant coach for Meines, who led the team to 10 consecutive league titles.
“To be appointed head coach, it’s been one of my dreams for a very long time,” West said. “I’m so excited to see these girls reach their potential and see how far they can get.
“We’re establishing something great here and we’re going to continue to cultivate great leaders and great play. I’m just really honored for this opportunity, and I’m excited. And hopefully, the girls are, too.”