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New girls hoops coach at South Whidbey High named

Henry Pope has been named to replace John Pyrtek as the new South Whidbey High School girls basketball coach. He’s scheduled a “meet-the-coach” meeting for players and parents at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the high school gym. - Jeff VanDerford
Henry Pope has been named to replace John Pyrtek as the new South Whidbey High School girls basketball coach. He’s scheduled a “meet-the-coach” meeting for players and parents at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the high school gym.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford

For years, Henry Pope has dreamed of coaching at the high school level.

Now he’ll get his chance — on Friday he was named as the new Falcon girls basketball coach by John Patton, South Whidbey’s athletic director.

He replaces John Pyrtek, whose one-year contract was not renewed back in March despite a winning season.

Last year the Lady Falcons finished second in the league at 9-3, 15-8 overall and qualified for districts for the second straight year.

The team had one of the most potent offenses in the Cascade Conference, averaging 60.1 points per game in conference play and 59 points overall.

But there was controversy surrounding the program.

Some younger players felt they weren’t getting enough playing time and the number of girls showing up for practice had declined dramatically the last two seasons.

Others felt that an emphasis on winning created an unstable air of “exclusivity” — that not every athlete was welcome in the Pyrtek scheme of things.

But that was then. Pope is not wasting any time establishing a new attitude and getting the team together. At 6:30 p.m. Thursday Pope will host a “meet the coach” session for potential players and their parents at the high school gym.

“I encourage any high school girl to show up tomorrow, whether they’ve played in the past or not,” Pope said.

He’s certainly not unfamiliar to young athletes on South Whidbey.

For the last 10 years Pope has coached basketball at Langley Middle School and assisted with Island Intensity fastpitch softball.

Born and raised in Alabama, Pope followed his brother to the University of Washington where he earned a bachelor of science degree in 1981. He coached basketball at a middle school in Seattle before moving his family to Whidbey Island 11 years ago.

Currently, Pope is a network designer for Boeing. He has two daughters; Samantha is a sophomore at South Whidbey and Taylor is in the eight grade, while son Lewis is in the sixth.

“I knew if the job became available, I was determined to apply,” he said.

Pope is hoping to foster a sense of real self-esteem among his athletes.

“I want players to look at the Falcon emblem and think teamwork, hustle and pride in themselves, their team and the community,” he said. “If you have pride, you’ve got what it takes to be successful on the court.”

He hopes the entire program expands to encompass girls from kindergarten through the senior year.

“My goal is to have more than enough players for three teams at the high school; they don’t have to know the details, just be willing to learn. Intelligent repetition will get them up to speed.”

Basketball’s winter season doesn’t begin until the tip-off classic in November. Still, Pope wants to be ready.

“I’m the new coach and I look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow night,” he said.

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