A fresh start for three of Tacoma’s top basketball programs

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Henry Foss guard Micah Pollard could help ease the transition for new Falcons’ coach Josh Barsh. Pollard, a 2018 Tacoma Weekly All-City Team selection, averaged more than 20 points a game last season, and is arguably the top returning guard in the city. Photo by Rocky Ross

In the past several months the landscape of Tacoma high school boys basketball has seen major changes in the coaching of some of the school’s best programs. In this offseason three head coaches; Aubrey Shelton of Lincoln High School, Mike Cocke’ of Foss High School and Mark Lovelady of Life Christian Academy, all stepped down from their longstanding coaching positions. Taking over as the new head coaches for these schools are Ryan Rogers for Lincoln, Josh Barsh for Foss and Charles Simmons for Life Christian Academy. 

Ryan Rogers has strong ties to Lincoln having been an Abe himself and playing on the basketball team under Shelton for one season. After high school, Rogers went on to play basketball for the University of Puget Sound, where Shelton has recently been named the men’s basketball head coach. 

Rogers brings not only the understanding of a Lincoln player but coach as well since he has worked as an assistant varsity coach under Shelton and was the head coach of the junior varsity. Shelton showed his approval and enthusiasm for his successor in a tweet saying he’s, “Very proud of and excited for Ryan Rogers being named the new head boys basketball coach at Lincoln!!! He is an Abe and a Logger who I had the privilege to coach his senior year, tough as nails, intelligent, and a true Abe, he is going to do great things!!!” 

In 2017, Life Christian guard Omari Maulana made a huge splash on the Tacoma hoops scene as a freshman, earning 2B Pacific League co-MVP honors. Along with 6-5 Keegan Bitow-Woods, Maulani brings a big game for incoming head coach Charles Simmons. Photo by Rocky Ross

Josh Barsh comes to Foss High School with years of experience on a variety of levels both as a player and coach. Barsh is honored and excited to be taking on the challenge of head coach and is eager to continue the program’s culture of discipline and winning. 

When asked what he’s looking forward to most as head coach, Barsh answered as many coaches do: the relationships. “I am really looking forward to building lasting relationships with the young men in the program,” said Barsh. “Helping them succeed on the court and also giving them the tools to be successful in life as men of our community.”

While Barsh acknowledges that they will eventually run into some obstacles this season he certainly doesn’t see it as one where the Falcons will drop off or slip into a rebuild. “I expect us to compete at a very high level,” said Barsh. “And to continue to build on the championship mentality… I see nothing but championships, scholarships and trophies for the Foss Falcon student-athletes.” 

While searching for a coach to take over for Mark Lovelady after 25 years was no easy task, Life Christian is excited about their choice of Charles Simmons. A self-styled “student of the game,” Simmons has played for years and has had the opportunity to shadow coaches at the collegiate and professional level. “I feel blessed and honored to be the new head coach at Life Christian,” said Simmons. “I’m eager to lead this group of student-athletes and followers of God.” 

As a freshman, Lincoln’s Julien Simon turned heads on the football field nationally and became an impact player on the court for the Abes. Photo by Rocky Ross

He also plans to continue Lovelady’s work in building the Life Christian basketball program. “I always respected how Lovelady was able to get the best out of kids and remain positive,” said Simmons. “We plan to build on what Lovelady started and take it higher…” Simmons is also the founder of Top Scholar Elite Basketball Club, a program which uses the platform of basketball to further improve a player’s game and teach them life skills such as hard work and respect. 

As players continue to grind away at workouts and summer league games, coaches will also be hard at work preparing game plans and practices. While the work and competitive coaching of Shelton, Cocke’ (now at Wilson High School), and Lovelady will be missed, fans should be eager to see the town’s newest coaches at work and the continuation of Tacoma basketball excellence. 

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