Back with the Bears
Freddie Rehkow’s cell phone rang and the caller ID said “Judy Walters.”
Rehkow, newly hired to coach girls basketball at Central Valley High, was glad to hear from his long-time friend and now varsity assistant, who was off working at a University of Tennessee girls basketball camp.
But it wasn’t Judy Walters calling.
“Hi, coach,” the caller said. “This is Pat Summitt. I’m hearing lots of good things about you!”
Still, a call from the legendary coach of the defending NCAA women’s national champion did not put a silly grin on Rehkow’s face.
It was already there.
Rehkow was an assistant coach, along with Walters, under Dale Poffenroth as the Bears won back-to-back state Class 4A championships in 2000-01 and 2001-02 before leaving to teach and coach girls basketball at East Valley.
After five seasons at the other end of Sullivan Road, Rehkow resigned after leading the Knights to their first state tournament in school history, where they came within one point and a tipped ball of earning a trophy.
“I just felt that something was keeping the program from breaking through to the next level and maybe that something was me,” he said. “My plan was to take at least a year off from coaching and then see what was out there.”
It turned out to be a brief hiatus.
Not long after Rehkow stepped down at East Valley, Walters, who replaced Poffenroth at CV, did the same thing.
“Judy told me she wanted to stay on as an assistant, and she encouraged me to apply,” Rehkow said. “So I sat down with my family, and we talked it over. The consensus was that, if I didn’t go after this job, I probably wouldn’t coach again.”
Returning to Central Valley is Rehkow’s dream job – testified to by the coach’s silly grin
“It really is,” he said. “Poff and Judy started here during my wife’s senior year. There’s a connection that goes way back.
“Sometimes you just need a new challenge to revitalize you.”
The chance to work with Walters, he said, was a major attraction.
A successful head coach both at Kamiakin and Central Valley, Walters has long said she feels most at home as an assistant. With Poffenroth she was half of a mom-and-pop operation that thrived – the yin to Poffenroth’s yang.
That formula worked – taking the Lady Bears to three straight Class 4A championship games before Poffenroth left to coach at Coeur d’Alene.
“Sometimes, as a coach, you have to bark a little,” Rehkow said. “Sometimes feelings get hurt a little, and that’s difficult. But it’s part of the growing process.
“Judy is one of the best in the business. She is literally one of the most genuinely nice people I know, and she is dedicated to the game. She flies off during the summer and works at camps like the one at the University of Tennessee. She’s respected everywhere she goes – how many people can just hand a cell phone to Pat Summitt, for goodness’ sake?”
Rehkow will continue to teach at East Valley while coaching up the road at CV.
“I tell the East Valley kids that I’m still going to support them, and I will be rooting for them in all but two games they play this season,” he said. “Teaching here and coaching over there isn’t the best situation, but that’s what we have to deal with. Judy is in the building, and I make sure all the players have my cell phone number and they can call me anytime.”
At Central Valley, Rehkow inherits a young team. The Bears finished 5-15 in the Greater Spokane League a year ago without a single senior on the varsity roster.
“I’m excited about the season,” he said. “And I think our players are excited about returning Central Valley basketball to what it was before.
“The GSL is one of the best basketball conferences you will find, and being competitive in this league takes a lot of hard work and dedication.”
Rehkow pointed to the number of former GSL standouts now playing major college basketball, starting with Angie Bjorklund, who went from being the league’s most valuable player a year ago to starting for Summitt’s top-ranked Lady Vols.
“Look at Katelan Redmon at Washington and Reagan Pariseau and Brain January and Emily Westerberg at Arizona State. The GSL has sent a lot of quality players on to play college basketball.”