This season, Chris Ferenz completed the family circle in basketball coaching.
The Walla Walla High School math teacher is a prominent figure in the Eastern Washington community. He was a longtime assistant for the Blue Devils’ boys squad, where he got to coach his son, Rob.
He probably is best known for the seasons he spent on the Whitman College women’s bench as an assistant for his wife, Michelle — including a run to the NCAA Division III national tournament in 2013-14.
But after the entire Walla Walla girls basketball staff — coach Jill Meliah and assistants Mike Patterson and Kasey Hooter — resigned last March, Ferenz, a UC Davis product who played professionally in Europe and Australia, was approached by a couple of returning standouts about taking over that team.
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He had to listen. It was his twin daughters, Mikayla and Kate, doing the asking.
“It was a big decision. With respect to Michelle, I knew as soon as I took the girls job that I wouldn’t be helping her as much as I had last year,” Ferenz said. “I spent a week thinking about it.”
One big factor in the decision: Ferenz had long coached both of his daughters — and fellow seniors Grace Kennedy, Madelyn Sirmon and Madi Doepker — in AAU ball with the Walla Walla Lady Rebels.
Eventually, he decided to apply, and he was hired. The Blue Devils won the 4A Mid-Columbia Conference and advanced to the state championships for the first time in 25 years.
“To see these girls get here — yes, it was the right decision. They have represented Walla Walla well,” Ferenz said. “I did not watch much film of (Michelle’s), and it was hard for her — and I wished I had helped. But a little bit of give there became a whole lot of reward here at state.”
SUITS HIM WELL
Jerome Collins is dominating this tournament in style points.
The Federal Way boys basketball coach’s slick, snazzy suits have been as much the talk of the Tacoma Dome this weekend as any close game or big-time scoring effort.
First was the rust-colored gem he wore in the quarterfinals Thursday, and he followed it with a classy paisley-patterned gray one Friday.
“I got a seamstress in New Orleans and one in New York,” Collins said. “They take care of me. They do everything for me.”
He unveils the suits only at the state tournament. His daughter, who is at graduate school in Georgia, normally picks them out. He said his wife has had the honor this year.
“My wife said, ‘I want you to wear this one today, this one the second day, and this one the third day,’ so, you know, I like to keep a happy home,” Collins said.
He said he might go a bit more conservative for the state title game Saturday against Davis. But he wouldn’t give away too much.
“We’ll see,” Collins said, laughing.
FISO FITS IN
Nobody had to tell Emily Fiso who was on the cover of the WIAA state girls basketball program this week.
It was former teammate Aqeelah Williams. And the photo was from last season’s Class 4A title game, when they played with Brittany McPhee and company at Mount Rainier High School.
The Rams lost to Gonzaga Prep in the title game.
After McPhee graduated, Fiso — a 6-foot wing — transferred to West Seattle; Williams ended up at Cleveland.
“I was just never happy (at Mount Rainier),” Fiso said. “Coming here and being welcomed in … it was a family fit. We all like each other. For my senior year, I needed that.”
Fiso said she will need wrist surgery after the tournament and will be sidelined for up to six months.
The only two teams in the 3A boys state tournament not from the Sea-King district — Kennedy Catholic and Marysville-Pilchuck — are the only ones that will not place. All six of the Sea-King district teams (Bellevue, Garfield, Lakeside, Rainier Beach and Seattle Prep) will place. … Of all the eye-opening elements of playing in your first state tournament in the Tacoma Dome, the one that stuck with Beamer guard Quinessa Caylao-Do on Thursday was rather interesting. “We had to adjust to that court,” she said, “and that rim, which was so different.” … Garfield won the 4A state tournament last year and will play for the 3A state title this year. “Everybody says they have an answer to Mike Tyson until they get in the ring with him, and 3A has been the Mike Tyson of my coaching existence,” Bulldogs coach Ed Haskins said. “Metro League has been ridiculously incredibly tough. State semifinals, all four teams. I’m really excited about just being a part of it.”