SANDPOINT — Wade Engelson knows what it takes to reach to top of the heap in Idaho hoops, helping Post Falls High win two state titles during his eight-year stint as an assistant coach.
Now he’s hoping to bring similar success to Sandpoint, as Engelson was named the new Bulldog boys head basketball coach on Wednesday.
The retired 58-year-old served in the Marine Corps and spent 20 years in law enforcement, eventually becoming Deputy Chief of Police in Fresno, Calif. Prior to his stint at Post Falls he spent years coaching youth and middle school sports, and he’s excited to move his family north to Sandpoint.
“There’s a whole bunch of positive things. The school and teachers and staff have good reputations,” Engelson said. “We’ve competed against Sandpoint, they’re good kids and good athletes. I’m looking forward to moving to Sandpoint.”
Engelson inherits a program that had fallen on tough times under the stewardship of former Coeur d’Alene High coach Kent Leiss, having gone two years without a league win and ending last season on a 14-game losing streak.
Engelson is eager to take on his first high school head coaching job, and go about putting Sandpoint basketball back on the map at the state level.
“I’m excited because I think we can do a lot of good things up there. Build a successful program and generate excitement among the kids from AAU and middle school,” Engelson said. “Get to state and succeed, that’s our ultimate goal.”
The Trojans have established themselves as a state power, with Engelson serving all eight years on the bench next to head coach Mike McLean. Along with girls coach Marc Allert and wrestling coach Pete Reardon, Engelson has seen what it takes to make state champions, much of which he hopes to bring along to Sandpoint.
Last year Engelson coached at a tournament in Las Vegas, where his Trojan squad upset national powers Chino Hills and Rancho Christian, admitting the teams were a bit shocked.
“I’ve had a front row seat and you get to see and be a part of programs that build successful athletes and successful people. Not just focusing on sports, but succeeding in life and enjoying the process. That has been a great form to cut my teeth on,” Engelson said. “There’s recipes for success. There’s certain ingredients that you have to have that I have seen.”
He wants to make sure it’s a rewarding experience for the players and parents when they look back. He also wants the AAU and middle school teams to work in conjunction with the high school, so the systems are on the same page.
In the end, Engelson believes in the tried and true maxim of hard work paying off.
“Successful teams out-work their competition. There is no shortcut to success,” Engelson said. “Successful programs are grown, generating the excitement from the little guys. Kids are excited, they want to come in and roll with the high school program. They know the things we do, it improves their chances of being successful.”
Sandpoint athletic director Kris Knowles interviewed four candidates from a pool of 13 applicants. In the end, Engelson’s personality and résumé with a state hoops power won out.
“His character shined through. A positive, uplifting personality, really good with people, patient, the characteristics we’ve been looking for,” Knowles said. “Wade is a high-character, high-integrity person who will be great for the student-athletes at Sandpoint High School.”