Marlin Broek has done a lot of great things for Valley Christian, but his best might have been convincing Greg Haagsma he should be the Trojans’ girls basketball coach and baseball coach back in 1991.
At the time Valley Christian didn’t have a gym to call its own and didn’t have a baseball field to put down some roots.
Essentially, every practice and game was on the road.
Oh, and Haagsma had to do all of the driving himself back then.
“Somehow, he still agreed to it,” Broek, the former Trojan athletic director, said on Tuesday in ceremony at Valley Christian.
It’s been a heck of a run — and building process considering the Trojans’ hoops teams play in of the coolest and intimate gyms in the area — for Haagsma, 45, ever since.
The sweater vest that the native Iowan wears has become iconic and his teams play a hard-nosed, fundamental style that defines Valley Christian as the Trojans boys team, a program he took over in 1997, developed into one of the small school powers.
The former Ahwatukee Foothills resident recently broke the 500 career wins barrier, all at Valley Christian, to reach a mark he never considered in the realm of possibility when he lead the Trojans’ girls team to a win at Bethany Community Church back in 1991.
“I was just trying to get through that first year,” he said before Tuesday’s win over Horizon Honors. “I came here from Iowa and wasn’t sure what to expect. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be through it all. The faculty, students, players and the whole Valley Christian community could not have been more supportive.”
Entering Tuesday's game at Glendale, Haagsma is 502-163 (.755 winning percentage) in his career. The breakdown is 106-41 (.721) with the girls and 396-120 (.767) with the boys. He is only the 11th coach in Arizona history to crack the 500-win mark.
He has four state title rings (2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007), two runner-up finishes, eight region titles and maybe more important he has touched the lives of 170 or so student athletes.
“The thing I remember most from those days was how well he knew how to get things across to the players,” said Troy Thelen, who came off the bench on the state title teams in 2002 and 2003. “He’d give you a look and you knew to never do whatever you just did ever again.
“His style really develops a sense of responsibility to everyone on the team to work harder and play at your best for your teammates.”
Haagsma, who has six Coach of the Year honors, believes it’s an attribute that filters down through the whole school, in part of what Broek started, and defines what it means to be a Trojan.
“The loyalty of the school has been great,” Haagsma said. “Marlin was such a great supporter and encourager for all of the sports team. When you have that at the top everyone buys and it makes Valley Christian a very special place as well.”
While he won’t admit it, Haagsma has had a bit to do with that as well. All you had to do was attend Tuesday’s ceremony to see all of the former players return out of respect and that fact that just about everyone in the crowd was wearing a special sweater vest T-shirt made just to celebrate No. 500.
And if all goes as planned all of Haagsma’s career wins will come from the place that once had no gym, but now has a great campus with a home court advantage in a facility that now houses a banner with his name and his accomplishments listed for everyone to read.
“I came here right out of college and lived in Ahwatukee and I loved the place,” he said. “I didn’t know I’d be here this long, but the longer you stay the more it becomes your home.
“I don’t see myself doing. I love to coach and love being a part of high school athletics. There is just something about seeing a freshman come in with all of those ideas, goals and wanting to achieve something and helping them get there. I just enjoy that very much.”
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