Assistant coaches relish time with Hamilton girls’ basketball
Regardless of the sport or level of play, it’s always difficult to lose your final game of the season.
That includes Hamilton girls’ basketball coach Dan VanHekken and his players.
“This hurts, but we’ll get over it,” said VanHekken after his team dropped a 42-35 decision to Jackson Northwest in a Class B state quarterfinal game on Tuesday, March 13.
VanHekken wasn’t the only coach sitting on the bench who felt the pain of the tougher-than-normal loss to the Mounties.
“It’s tough, no question about it,” said Steve Sikma, assistant coach under VanHekken.
Even the bubbling Mary Ayres, who is always seen wearing the widest of grins on the team bench game after game, wasn’t her usual self.
“The girls had a great year and will get past this,” said Ayres, a standout prep athlete at Plainwell and Hope College who now coaches not only the girls’ JV team at Hamilton, but also the freshmen squad.
Both Ayres and Sikma are proud to be coaching at Hamilton as members of VanHekken’s staff.
Hamilton’s two assistant coaches can’t think of being at another school or working for another coach other than VanHekken.
“We really think so much alike,” Sikma said.
“We bounce ideas off each other all the time,” he said. “There are times during the game that Steve or Mary will mention something that I was actually going to bring up.”
That can be even a little spooky, but in a good and positive way.
“It can be a little scary at times,” said VanHekken, who guided Hamilton to the most wins in school history (24) and its first regional championship.
All three Hamilton coaches couldn’t have been more proud of this winter’s team than they were.
“No one can take away what these girls have accomplished,” said Ayers.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to coach at Hamilton and under Dan,” Sikma added.
Sikma, who previously coached at Grand Rapids South Christian before taking over the boys’ basketball program at Hamilton for eight seasons, couldn’t be more happy in his relatively new position.
“This is my third year assisting Dan,” Sikma said. “Time sure goes by fast, especially when you win.”
And win is something the 2017-18 Hawkeyes did more than any other Hamilton girls’ basketball team has ever done before.