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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘The coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of’: Washington State associate coach Laurie Koehn impressed by Hoopfest atmosphere

By Charlotte McKinley For The Spokesman-Review

After Laurie Koehn won her Hoopfest division last year – not to mention helping to coach her team to a Pac-12 Tournament championship – the Washington State University women’s basketball associate head coach wanted to add another Hoopfest win to her team’s record.

“I came up last year for the first time and was just blown away by the bigness, the atmosphere and the environment,” Koehn said. “If you like basketball, it is just a dream come true.”

Koehn first competed in Hoopfest when Gonzaga women’s basketball assistant coach Stacy Clinesmith called her asking if she wanted to fill a hole in their team.

“Laurie is a great player, but I also knew that she’s always in shape,” Clinesmith said. “When in the elite division, you need people that can go and I knew she would be able to go no matter what, even if her shot wasn’t on, which it always is.”

Koehn did not know much about the Pacific Northwest’s attitude toward basketball or what to expect from the region prior to joining the coaching staff alongside head coach Mary Camille “Kamie” Ethridge in 2018. She grew up and played in Texas, played for East Coast WNBA teams and played abroad in Europe and Australia.

When she came to Washington, she was blown away how far Cougar pride extended. Even in a restaurant in Chicago, when someone would spot the WSU logo, they would call out, “Go Cougs!”

“It’s all over,” Koehn said. “You can’t go anywhere without getting a, “Go Cougs,” if you’ve got a Coug head somewhere on your body.”

After five years coaching her team, Koehn finds her job fun and rewarding.

“At first it didn’t feel rewarding at all,” she said. “It felt like hard work every single day trying to change mindsets and change visions, and really get people to buy into what we were telling them about what it takes to be a championship-level team.”

Five years later, Koehn and Ethridge coached their team to its first Pac-12 Conference Tournament championship against UCLA.

Until its run of three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances, WSU made just one tournament in 1991.

“Getting them to really believe we’re winners, we can win and we can do this here at Washington State – we can beat the odds and we can go toe to toe with (any) team in our conference … that was just a day-to-day grind of believing it,” Koehn said.

Since 2018, Koehn’s opinion of the region’s basketball has changed, especially with having to recruit for her team.

“Some of the best players for women’s basketball every single year come out of the state of Washington,” Koehn said. “It’s such a rich area for talent.”

In addition to the talent, the annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament left an indelible mark on the associate coach.

“I’m just so impressed with this region and the state of Washington and Spokane, obviously with Hoopfest, and it’s really cool,” Koehn said.

“I tell everybody about it from back home.”

Prior to competing in the tournament, Koehn did not realize how large Hoopfest was.

“If you’re a basketball junkie, who doesn’t want to grow up in the state of Washington and get to do Hoopfest every year? I think I would have driven hours to get there every single year growing up if I had a chance to do that,” she said.

Koehn plans on competing in Hoopfest for a long time.

“(Hoopfest) is just the coolest thing I’ve ever seen or been a part of,” Koehn said. “I hope that until I can’t walk anymore, I get to play in it from now on.”