High School Sports

Prep Focus: Olympia hires John Kiley, Jackie Robinson as head basketball coaches

John Kiley is coming home.

Thirteen years since he last coached his alma mater for 10 seasons, Kiley is returning to Olympia High School as the Bears’ boys basketball coach.

Kiley, the point guard on Olympia’s 1986 2A state championship team, recalled his recent return to Chick Rocky Gymnasium for a summer league practice as emotional.

“It was like I really had never been away,” the 47-year-old Kiley said. He’s replacing Luke Salme, who resigned after accepting a teaching and coaching job at Class 2B Adna.

Kiley first coached the Bears from 1993-02, highlighted by a trip to the 1998 3A state title game, where the Bears, led by a future BYU-bound Mark Bigelow, fell to a Jamal Crawford-led Rainier Beach team in the state title game.

Kiley’s only head-coaching job has been at Olympia, but he hasn’t been out of coaching. He founded the AAU-based Pioneer Tech, featuring local and regional high school players. Kiley also was a finalist for the Saint Martin’s men’s basketball job in April.

Over those 13 years, Kiley said he’s grown as a coach and used the analogy of a scientist doing experiments in a lab the past 13 years with his AAU team.

“I really feel like we were able to test different ideas, and ultimately some worked and some didn’t,” he said.

Kiley, married and a father of four sons (including Luke, an incoming junior at Olympia who also played basketball), said he never ruled out coaching at the high school level again after stepping down following the 2001-02 season for family reasons — but there was only one program he’s consider returning to.

“I’m a homer,” he said.

Olympia went 4-16 last season.

‘Time to make the jump’ from River Ridge to Olympia for Robinson

Following four years as the River Ridge girls basketball coach, Jackie Robinson takes the reigns at Class 4A Olympia. He replaces Tina Washington, who stepped down midseason in January after being placed on paid administrative leave in December. JV coach Nigel Warren coached the remainder of the season, leading the Bears to the 4A regionals.

The Robinsons, including wife Kelsey, who’s the daughter of former Seattle SuperSonics coach George Karl, and their 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter, live approximately two miles from Olympia. Jackie Robinson said having their children attend the school was another selling point to jump to the Bears program.

But so was the challenge of coaching a Class 4A program in the Narrows League.

“I thought it was time to make the jump,” Robinson said. “It will be a good experience, for sure. When I was introduced, there was a buzz around the town. My phone was going off the hook. It was different.”

Last season, Robinson guided the Class 2A Hawks to the final eight of the Class 2A girls state tournament in their first season as a 2A South Puget Sound League member.

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