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Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — Peninsula College women’s basketball coach Alison Crumb decided to pursue a master’s degree, then lost her assistant coach and entire starting lineup in the same offseason.
With an undoubtedly busier off-court life next season, and an inexperienced team, Crumb had to find a seasoned, supportive assistant coach.
“I needed someone to step in and be able to take care of certain things sometimes,” Crumb said.
So, she turned to her basketball roots.
Crumb called her coach at Port Angeles High School, Mike Knowles, and asked him to meet up for a cup of coffee.
And then she asked him to be her new assistant.
After discussing the job — including what Knowles’ role would be and Crumb’s expectations of him — Knowles said he was interested.
“Having Mike will be so good, because he’s so experienced, especially at building and developing individual skills,” Crumb said.
Knowles expects working alongside Crumb will be a good fit.
“With my experience, she thought I could help out a little bit, and Ali and I have the same philosophy,” he said.
Crumb said their hoops philosophies are so similar because the core of hers came from Knowles, who coached her at Port Angeles through her junior year.
Their basketball relationship actually began years earlier.
Knowles was heavily involved in the girls youth program, and figures he started working with Crumb when she was a fourth-grader.
“He was what I grew up with,” Crumb said.
“Mike Knowles was Port Angeles girls basketball. He was the first person I learned from in that type of environment, and I had such a great experience.”
Knowles said Crumb’s coaching abilities were evident when she was in high sc∫hool.
“She was a leader on the floor,” he said.
“And even when she was on the JV team, she would sit and talk to me and ask me questions.
“She always did it in a respectful manner. She’s always had a good understanding of the coach-player relationship.”
How will that relationship be affected now that the player is in charge?
“Everybody asks me that. I think they assume that there’s going to be a power struggle,” Crumb said.
“I don’t see that happening.”
Knowles served two stints as the Port Angeles girls head coach — most recently from 2007 to 2011 — winning nine league titles, two district titles and five state appearances.
But he also has an extensive assistant coaching background, including turns helping out former Roughriders boys head coaches Lee Sinnes, who was inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame last year, and Erik Lathen.
“He told me he likes [being an assistant],” Crumb said.
“He said, ‘I have no issue with you being the head coach.’
“I think it will be a great collaboration.”
In addition, Knowles knows what it’s like to have an experienced head coach working under him, as Sinnes was his assistant during his second term with the Port Angeles girls.
“Having a head coach as an assistant is so valuable,” Knowles said.
And being an assistant is less stressful than being the head coach.
“Your job is presenting the ideas of the head coach,” Knowles said.
“When you’re not the head coach, you really just deal with teaching fundamentals.”
Crumb and former assistant Suzanna Dean, who moved to Seattle, were a symbolically important duo because in 2005 they were members of the last Peninsula women’s team to win an NWAACC North Division basketball title.
Crumb expects the Pirates to have 10 new faces in 2013-14, and of the five players returning, only guard Pherrari Brumbaugh ranked in the top seven in minutes played last year.
Crumb said Knowles is up to the task of helping mold the young Pirates into North Division contenders.
“He’s a great mix of being an intense disciplinarian, but also being an active supporter,” Crumb said.
“He’s really invested in the players’ lives, making them better players, and winning games — in that order.”
Knowles has been invested in one of the Pirates’ lives since her birth: Alison Knowles, his daughter, will be a sophomore guard on next year’s team.
“Before I took the job, 100 percent, I wanted to make sure it was OK with her,” Mike Knowles said.
“I told her about the opportunity, and she said, ‘Take it,’ before I could finish asking her.”
Mike Knowles coached his daughter throughout her high school career at Port Angeles, so Crumb said Alison Knowles probably knows she won’t be receiving special treatment.
“Mike is her biggest fan, but he’s also her biggest critic,” Crumb said.
But as the top returning scorer (5.2 points per game), Alison Knowles likely will play an important role for Peninsula in 2013-2014, especially early in the season.
“We’re going to ask a lot of her . . . and I think she’s ready,” Crumb said.
“We’re going to have a whole different look next year, from the coaching staff to the players.”
Goodwin to assist
Part of the new-look Pirates will be a familiar face with a different name: Danika Goodwin, who played guard at Port Angeles under Mike Knowles and then at Peninsula College under Crumb, will join the program as a volunteer assistant.
She is now Danika Johnson, having married Jeremiah Johnson, who helped the Peninsula College men’s basketball team win the NWAACC championship in 2011.
Danika Johnson led the Pirates in scoring (12.1 points per game), assists (3.4) and free throw shooting (72 percent), and was second in rebounding (6.4), as a sophomore guard in 2010-11.
Danika and Jeremiah Johnson return to the North Olympic Peninsula after playing basketball at New England College in Henniker, N.H.
Sports reporter/outdoors columnist Lee Horton can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5152 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.