by Henry Miller | Staff Writer
Head Coach Helen Higgs announced last week that she is retiring after 24 seasons of coaching the Pirates women’s basketball team. Coach Higgs is the winningest coach in Whitworth Women’s basketball history. Higgs coached college basketball for 31 years and the wear and tear of coaching had begun to take its toll.
“I feel like a senior,” Higgs said. “I’ve been sitting around with senior players this year asking, ‘What are we going to do next year?’”
Higgs said she has multiple options for what path to travel down next in her life.
“I’ve considered ministry, I’ve considered teaching abroad, I’ve considered working with coaches and athletes,” she said.
Higgs plans to first take some time off to relax and recuperate after her long tenure as head coach. This she deemed the “Summer of whatever Helen wants to do.” While she coached, Helen had no fall break, only an occasional Thanksgiving and five days for Christmas. Her summers were often busy as well as she devoted time to making sure athletes were academically ready for competition. Higgs was also the chief recruiter for the women’s basketball team, which further intensified her already busy schedule. Higgs is especially looking forward to reconnecting to friends she has been out of contact with after this season.
Higgs said that a major influence on her decision was a religious calling to pursue other areas in her life.
“I have some passions in some other areas that this job doesn’t give me the freedom to pursue,” Higgs said.
Coach Higgs has a lot of great memories to reminisce.
“There was one year where we had not beaten George Fox at George Fox yet, and to make it to the playoffs we would have to win. We ended up winning on a last second shot,” Higgs said. Higgs remembers the gym being “deafening.”
“One year we started 14-0, but it’s really just the relationships and the people I’ve coached,” Higgs said. Higgs found her first year at Whitworth to be the most influential.
“Those women that I coached early on, a lot of them are close friends now and are there for each other, there were plenty of last second shots and incredibly strong seasons, but the real highlights were the relationships I formed. Being a part of the community at Whitworth has kept me here for a long time and made this job fantastic,” Higgs said. “There were plenty of last second shots and incredibly strong seasons, but the real highlights were the relationships I formed.”
Higgs placed her full confidence in the Whitworth athletic staff in finding a new coach.
“Coaches like men’s basketball coach Matt Logie and softball coach Cristal Brown are both examples of how Tim Demant [the athletic director] has been able to recruit the best coaches around.”
Higgs finished her career at Whitworth with NWC championships in 1995 and 2003. She accumulated three coach of the year awards, and produced three conference player of the year winners.