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Valencia eager to reestablish BHS girls basketball
Al Valencia is ready.
Ready to hit the hardwood, clipboard in hand. Ready to meet the players who will soon call him coach. Ready to win.
The recently hired Bremerton girls basketball coach is ready to begin his first-ever head coaching position at the high school level.
“I’m very blessed to be here, I’m very fortunate and thankful to coach at Bremerton High School,” Valencia said. “I’m anxious and excited to get on the floor, I really want to get there.”
Valencia replaces Daniel McInnis, one of three former BHS coaches who was axed over the summer following a decision by the Bremerton School District to cut all full-time classified employees from head coaching positions.
The 61-year-old father of two is about five weeks away from what he hopes is the first of many seasons as the head man of BHS girls basketball. His coaching resumé includes stints from the Pee Wee level all the way up to high school, the most recent stop being an assistant to Olympic High School girls basketball coach Laurie Shaw.
Prior to his assistant job at Olympic, Valencia logged time at both King’s West School (now Crosspoint Academy) and Central Kitsap High School to go with various duties as a volunteer at the select, middle school and Pee Wee levels.
A self-proclaimed baseball enthusiast who joined the basketball coaching fraternity via his son, an Olympic grad who grew up playing the sport, Valencia takes the reigns of a Lady Knights team that finished 4-16 last season.
The shift from Olympic to BHS is bittersweet.
“It’s kind of tough parting ways there,” Valencia said of Olympic. “My heart is still there, but Bremerton is my new home as far as coaching goes.”
Valencia’s first task at hand is to hire an assistant “hopefully soon,” establish the trust of his soon-to-be players and assess the talent of a team with whom he’s unfamiliar.
From there, he added, it’s all about building a winning program.
“What I would really like to accomplish is to have a competitive team,” Valencia said. “I would like to prepare the kids to be better basketball players and to prepare enough so that they have an opportunity to win.”
While Valencia has coached in some capacity for many years, he admits there is an element of unknown in becoming a head coach at the high school level for the first time.
From assembling the roster to planning practices to winning games, Valencia understands — and anticipates — the commitment required of a head coach.
“It’s going to be a challenge to do things,” he said. “It seems overwhelming, at some points in time, when I look at things from my position ... I’m responsible for the whole ball of wax. I’ve got to keep the pulse of Bremerton High School (girls) basketball right at my fingertips at all times.”
Yet, Valencia is confident, optimistic and assembling a plan he believes will be successful. He preaches the acronym WIN — “What’s Important Now” — and emphasizes the importance of being a productive member of society.
“Beyond and above it all, I really want the girls to have a good time,” Valencia said. “I want the girls to enjoy themselves.”