New boys coach brings up-tempo hoops game

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

Sweet Home High School’s new boys basketball coach brings a lifetime of court experience to the floor as he prepares to take the reins from Tim Little who is leaving the district.

Kostanty Knurowski comes to Sweet Home from North Salem High School, where he is the head basketball coach and PE teacher.

He will teach health and PE at SHHS.

Little departs after 10 years with the Huskies. He started out as freshman coach with Jason Gorham and Head Coach Mark Risen in 1998.

He is going to work for Nampa High School in Idaho to be closer to family.

He has the opportunity to coach there but hasn’t decided whether to accept it as he has another child on the way.

I’ve invested a lot for a long time,” Little said. “It was a very hard decision, and scary. My wife and I have a good set-up here, good jobs and good buildings.

“(But) one of the things in Sweet Home, everybody’s got family around. It makes you appreciate family and understand priorities.”

He will definitely miss his team, he said. “The last two years, it seems like they’re really good kids all through the program. It’s a big passion for me here in Sweet Home. I’ll miss them a lot.”

Knurowski is coming to Sweet Home for reasons similar to Little’s departure.

“I live in Lebanon,” Knurowski said. “To be honest, I wanted to get back to more of a community setting. I never had a desire to be at the ‘highest level,’ but I had a lot of fun and learned a lot of things.”

It also gets him back home, where he grew up, he said. His parents, Steve and Deanna Knurowski, and grandparents were all Sweet Home graduates. His grandparents, Don and Alice Gallogly, still live in Sweet Home and own Slip ‘n’ Snip.

“It’s like my second home,” he said of Sweet Home.

Knurowski, 29, is a graduate of East Linn Christian Academy. He attended Hesston College in Kansas for two years, earning his associate’s degree. He earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education at Western Oregon University in 2004 and then went to work at North.

Teaching “is comfortable,” Knurowski said. “You go through school, keep going through school then switch to the other side of the desk.”

He said he enjoys being around kids, passing on his experiences and building relationships with people who enjoy the same activities that he does.

Knurowski started playing ball in the first grade. During his sophomore year in high school, his team at Lebanon Christian won the state championship. During his junior and senior year at East Linn, his team made it to the second round of state playoffs, and he was an all-league player. He started at Hesston College for two years.

When he returned to Oregon, the head coach at Lebanon High School found out he had returned, and Knurowski went to work as the freshman assistant coach. He spent five years there, eventually coaching the junior varsity boys. He has been head coach at 6A division North Salem for two years and is now headed into his 10th year coaching and third year coaching varsity. The Vikings went 15-34 under his leadership. While at North, he coached with Sweet Home alumnus Nate Tyler.

“I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have basketball going on since the first grade,” Knurowski said.

Knurowski’s style will be a contrast to the grinding offense and smothering defense the Huskies have lived by for most of the last decade under Little and Mark Risen.

“I might speed up the game a little more,” Knurowski said. Both Little and Risen stressed control and ran a slower half-court attack.

The Huskies typically bring little size but a lot of speed to the court.

Knurowski wants to take advantage of that and talks about a full-court transition game running off heavy full-court defense.

He said he’s an excitable coach, though he tries to keep it under wraps. He said he’s a pacer, who might sit down, but it doesn’t last long before he’s back on his feet walking the sideline.

“I’m a competitor, so I get amped up every once in awhile,” Knurowski said. “But I think it’s important to stay calm and model poise.”

Knurowski is married to Rhianna, who works at Sweet Home Clinic. They have a 2-year-old son, Blake.

“I like it (coming to Sweet Home,” Knurowski said. “I think Sweet Home does a great job of making their schools a place where people want to go and people want to stay at.”