Less than four weeks ago, Lynden Christian hoisted a second place trophy after a runner-up finish at the WIAA 1A boys basketball state tournament.
Now, the only coach in the program’s history to be inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame will not return.
The Lynden Christian administration opted not to renew DeBoer’s contract after 11 seasons, a decision delivered in an in-person meeting with the coach on Thursday afternoon. The 30-year head coach has won three 1A state titles (2000, 2012, 2018) and made his ninth championship appearance last month.
“It was a little bit of a surprising day,” DeBoer said in a phone call Thursday night. “We’re just kind of processing right now.
“I should start by emphasizing how much I love Lynden Christian, how much I love the kids and how much I love being a part of the LC community. I graduated from there, this has been an important part of my life for a lot of years. It’s been so satisfying to be back at LC coaching, experiencing the many successes and being able to impact young mens’ lives for the past 11 years. A dream come true.”
DeBoer and the administration had sparred privately over what DeBoer described as “leadership styles” before the 2019-20 basketball season began. There was also a dispute surrounding a bid for playoff football T-shirts and the athletic apparel company Cloud 9 Sports, of which DeBoer is a co-owner. The school opted for a local competitor, but DeBoer says he still fulfilled a request from several local families to make the T-shirts anyways.
He was put on a probationary contract entering the season and said he was told to monitor his sideline behavior and how that looked to the general public. DeBoer also said he was also told to monitor how his demeanor intimidated players — both assertions some former players scoffed at, publicly and privately as support poured in for the coach in wake of the decision.
“No doubt in my mind I want to be best for kids, so if there are adjustments or things I can do that help me to be the better coach, kids to be better players, I’m all for it, 100 percent,” DeBoer said. “Not in any way did I feel like there was a negative cloud over the season, but I felt there was accountability and I embraced that — our staff embraced that.”
But when the decision not to renew his contract was made Thursday, months after being put on a probationary contract, DeBoer believes it was predetermined.
Lynden Christian Activities Director Brenda Terpstra did not address any of the claims, nor provide a reason for not renewing DeBoer’s contract in an email Friday morning, saying “we cannot comment on personnel issues.”
The school released a press release Friday morning.
“Lynden Christian is announcing that Roger DeBoer’s service as Head Boys’ Basketball Coach will conclude and he will not be returning to coach the Lyncs next year,” the statement read. “Coach DeBoer consistently led his teams to success on the court, with 9 state tournament appearances, state titles in 2012 & 2018, and a 2nd place finish this past season. We are grateful for the time, energy, and passion he has given to his players, teams, and Lynden Christian during his 11 years at LC.”
DeBoer, 56, is a Lynden Christian graduate who helped lead the school to a state title in 1982 as a senior. He was inducted into the WIBCA Hall of Fame in 2016, and coached at Seattle Christian for 19 seasons before returning to lead his alma mater in 2009.
The Lyncs went 22-6 this past season and made a run to the 1A state title game as a six seed after beating defending state champion Zillah in an overtime regional game. They lost to King’s in the state title game in overtime, 70-67.
DeBoer, who has three children enrolled at Lynden Christian, doesn’t know whether or not he will remain in Lynden, a small-but-growing Northwest Washington city five miles south of the U.S.-Canada border. DeBoer’s son Jaden was a first team all-state selection this past season.
“We love Lynden Christian,” DeBoer said. “We have three kids enrolled at Lynden Christian next year. We have to determine what’s best for our family, based on what we’ve seen for a leadership perspective. We have no idea what’s in store.”
On Thursday night, current and former players voiced support for DeBoer on social media.