Two of the region’s longest-tenured and successful junior college women’s basketball coaches retired in March, giving way to new eras at Community Colleges of Spokane and North Idaho College.
The rival Northwest Athletic Conference programs didn’t look far for their replacements.
New CCS coach Ryan Bodecker spent the past four seasons as an assistant under Bruce Johnson, who led the Sasquatch for 32 years and had over 600 wins, including a 2017 NWAC Tournament championship.
Thirty miles east, former NIC point guard Korina Baker, who spent the last two seasons at the Coeur d’Alene school as an assistant, takes over on an interim basis for her old boss Chris Carlson, who won nearly 500 games in 17 seasons, including a national title in 2011.
Both new leaders are locals, too.
Bodecker, 37, is a former Priest River High guard and Idaho graduate who took over the Priest River boys program in 2008, leading the Spartans to an Idaho 3A state title in 2011.
Baker, 28, starred at Freeman and NIC before becoming one of the steadiest point guards in Conference USA, starting 66 games in two seasons at Southern Methodist, where she averaged 3.6 assists.
Bodecker and Baker are ready to put the lessons they learned from their predecessors to use, but with their own respective philosophies.
By the time Bodecker was named the new CCS head coach in April, he already had a grip on his duties.
Bodecker had been the acting athletic director at CCS and the school’s sports information director, all while assisting Johnson, who had become the longest-tenured women’s basketball coach in all of the NWAC.
As seasons passed, Johnson gave Bodecker more and more freedom as his top assistant, helping the North Idaho native grow as a collegiate coach.
Bodecker sometimes paced the sideline and gave direction last season as Johnson sat and observed.
“He gave me a lot of responsibility, and that helped me,” Bodecker said.
Bodecker had ample experience before his time in Spokane.
After being named the boys’ coach in 2007 at Priest River, he swiftly built a winning program that reached its pinnacle in 2011 when the Spartans won a state title. It was – and still is – the only time a 3A District I boys basketball team won a state title in the 2000s.
His Priest River teams were up-tempo and defensive-minded, a style of play he wants to mimic at CCS.
“I’ll take some of (Johnson’s) philosophy, but every coach should coach to their personality,” Bodecker said. “We’ll go faster, press more, but you have to coach to your athletes.”
Coaching rarely stops in the Bodecker household either as his wife, former Lakeside Eagles multisport standout Kati Bodecker (nee Tikker), is the head volleyball coach at Whitworth.
In the NWAC East Region – widely believed to be the NWAC’s toughest and deepest league – recruiting the best available local talent remains a big focus.
“We have a rich tradition of girls basketball in the area, and we want those kids to represent us,” Bodecker said.
CCS recently signed Emma Main (Mt. Spokane), Destiny Hillyard (East Valley) and Lizzy Perry (Oakesdale).
Baker aiming to keep the job
Baker figured she’d get at least five seasons under Carlson before he’d decide to call it quits, so she was surprised when he announced his retirement in late February.
NIC, a former member of the National Junior College Athletic Association before joining the NWAC in 2016, was beginning to find its footing in the new league.
The Cardinals qualified for back-to-back postseason tournaments in 2019 and 2020, winning their first-round game in March before the NWAC Tournament was canceled due to coronavirus concerns.
Baker had been on the staff for two seasons, joining the Cardinals in 2018 as a way to get her in foot the door.
Her previous coaching gig was with an AAU club in Dallas after exhausting her eligibility at SMU in 2014.
Now in Year 3 of her fledgling career, she’s back with an NIC program she helped lead to a national title in 2011 as the team’s starting point guard.
“NIC holds a strong spot in my heart,” Baker said. “Carlson built a good program here, and I want to keep that going.”
“I’ll have the team for a year, then they’ll open the job back up, but I hope to do a good job this next season and keep it.”
Baker, who grew up in Valleyford, led Freeman to a 1A state title in 2010 before playing for Carlson on an NIC team that was littered with future NCAA Division I signees.
Baker (SMU), Kama Griffits (Arizona), Kiki Edwards-Teasley (Oregon State), Tugce Canitez (DePaul) and Camille Reynolds (South Alabama) helped NIC cruise through the 2011 NJCAA Tournament in Kansas.
NIC may not have the scholarship resources that it had as a NJCAA member, but Baker believes she can still attract the best available talent.
She wants to identify much of the under-the-radar talent like Carlson did with her.
“I want to play fast-paced but with structure,” she said.
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