New girls basketball coach brings experience, bloodlines

Benny Westcott

For new Sweet Home High School Girls Basketball Coach Erika Evans, basketball – particularly coaching the high school game – runs in the family.

Her dad, Wayne Molebash, was a high school boys basketball coach for 45 years. His first coaching job was at West Albany. He followed that up with coaching stints in eastern Oregon: Elgin, Prineville, Crook County and Union.

When he married Evans’ mom, Laura Bullard, he moved to Roseville, Calif., where he coached numerous sports at Woodcreek High School: baseball, football, and, of course, basketball.

Evans’ older brother, Robert Molebash, is in his fourth year coaching high school boys basketball at Santana High School in the San Diego area.

And Evans herself, just 24, already has a fair amount of coaching experience.

It started for her in high school at Woodcreek when she helped her dad coach middle school track, after he advised her to take the spring season off from playing sports because she had gone through knee surgeries and could use some rest.

“I just kind of had a knack for it, and went from there to coaching basketball camps and AAU teams and stuff like that,” Evans said.

As a kinesiology major at Oregon State University, Evans was also a manager on the women’s basketball team there for four years before graduating in 2020.

“I got to not only be in practice every day with one of the best women’s basketball programs in the country, but also one of the best women’s basketball coaches (Head Coach Scott Rueck) that I was watching every day and creating a relationship with him and his players and family.”

Her manager job also enabled her to do a fair amount of globetrotting, with a trip to Italy and a few trips to Hawaii, not to mention Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments.

After college, while getting her master’s in teaching at George Fox University, Evans served as an assistant for the Bruins’ women’s basketball team. And in her first year teaching social studies at Sweet Home High School, Evans coached Huskies’ JV2 volleyball team and was an assistant on the varsity basketball team, helping teach the two sports she played in high school back in Roseville.

She now replaces former girls head basketball coach Michelle Knight, who resigned in April after leading the Huskies program for five seasons.

Given her family history, it isn’t much of a surprise that Evans took to coaching.

“I just grew up with that atmosphere,” she said. “It was always kind of a direction I saw myself going.”

High School Athletic Director Dan Tow saw her as the right fit for the job.

“Obviously, she’s really young, but we’ve really been impressed with her as a teacher, and when she came in we knew that she already had coaching experience,” he said, noting that people at George Fox had “really great things to say about her, just about her work ethic, her knowledge about basketball, and how she works with kids.”

He noted that, “She’s really just kind of jumped in as far as getting involved really quickly with kids at the junior high. We’re just excited about her energy level and what she has to offer. She’s passionate about coaching kids and improving the program in any way that she can.”

Evans herself said, “I think that if there’s anybody who can do something with the girls basketball program in Sweet Home, then it’s me,” she said. “This is not a program that’s had a lot of interest or love and TLC throughout its lifetime, and not one that’s been the most successful.”

She said that girls basketball in Sweet Home competes with a lot of successful programs that are “a lot cuter,” like volleyball. She additionally noted that wrestling is a really prominent program that takes a lot of Sweet Home athletes in the winter.

“It has definitely been a tough go for girls basketball around here,” she said. “There was a need and I saw it, and I think I can do something with it.”

She said she wants to get more excitement and involvement at the younger levels. “For the successful programs anywhere that I’ve ever been, the success comes from harnessing kids when they’re in third, fourth and fifth grade, and taking them with you,” she said.

Continuing, she said, “People don’t want to be involved in a program where there’s no excitement about it or people that want to be involved. And I think that when there’s an opening for a job to coach at the middle school every single year, and nobody’s sticking around, it kind of exemplifies that. So I’ve been working a lot on creating relationships at the middle school level and down to the fifth grade level.”

She said she’s really big on relationships in coaching, and is the same way as a teacher. “I think all the best coaches that I’ve known in my lifetime are all teachers first,” Evans said, citing Oregon State Women’s Basketball Coach Scott Rueck and University of Portland Women’s Basketball Coach Mike Meek.

“Those are two of the best women’s basketball coaches in the country that have been the most successful in the shortest period of time, and they went to school in education and were middle school teachers prior to getting into coaching,” Evans said.

Accordingly, she says “I take a lot of what I use in the classroom into explaining things like, what is the purpose behind what we’re doing? Why are we having to do this cut, why are we running this offense? What’s the purpose of all this in the grander scheme of things?”

Evans says she’s big on letting her players know that she loves and cares about them. “I’m not the most touchy-feely huggy person, but everybody that plays for me knows that I would go to battle for them, and that I’m always up and walking along the sidelines.

“Your players work hard for you because they love you, and they know that you love them,” she continued. “First practice, I always let everybody know – I’m always going to love you, but I’m not always going to like you. The same way that you tick off your mom and dad every once in a while, and your mom and dad always love you but they don’t always like you. When I yell at them or whatever, I’m doing it because I expect more from them than they expect from themselves.”

She wants to foster a team atmosphere. “When it’s a hard day or other stuff’s going on outside of practice, you’re playing for the girl next to you or you’re playing for your coach,” she said, emphasizing the importance of girls knowing their role. She wants her players to take the mentality that “It’s not about me, and it’s not about whether I’m on JV2 or JV or varsity, it’s about how I can assist and be part of this program.”

From an X’s and O’s standpoint, Evans preaches defense. “Defense wins games,” she said. “I’m super big on defensive fundamentals and girls that are willing to communicate on defense and box out every time. If you’re going to know two things about playing for me, you’re going to talk on defense and you’re going to box out every single time. We’re going to work on that for two hours until you get it.”

So how did Evans end up in Sweet Home? She was student teaching at Newberg High School while getting her master’s when a teacher there whose best friend is Sweet Home High School math teacher Steve Thorpe informed her that Sweet Home had a teaching opening.

Evans applied for the job but didn’t get it initially. Then, right before her wedding last spring to Blake Evans, who now works as a physical therapist in Albany, she got a call from high school Assistant Principal Aaron Huff asking her if she would like to apply again.

“I said I can be there in like two weeks, I’m kind of busy at the moment,” Evans recalled. “But they were very patient and honest. They were very transparent and caring.”

The Huskies next year will look to improve upon their 5-18 record from this winter, but they will have to do it without the program’s all-time leading scorer, Brooke Burke, who graduated.