ASHWAUBENON — Nicky VanLaanen knows what it takes to guide a winning basketball program so the fact the former Ashwaubenon girls basketball coach isn’t “former” anymore is a good thing for the Jaguars.
VanLaanen is back for her second stint at Ashwaubenon as she has replaced Dave Herzog after Herzog resigned after eight seasons. VanLaanen coached from 1999-2002 at Ashwaubenon and forged a 38-28 record.
After that she spent 10 seasons as an assistant at St. Norbert College and during that time the Jaguars have experienced the highs — winning a state title in 2005 — and lows — going 9-37 over the last two seasons.
VanLaanen is ready for Chapter 2 at Ashwaubenon.
“It was just the perfect opportunity with Coach Herzog leaving,” Van Laanen said at a summer league game this week. “Since I worked with the youth kids, being still at the high school, it was just an opportunity I couldn't pass up."
The Green Bay Preble graduate knows what has to be done first to get the program back on track.
"The first thing that we need to do is get our pride back,” she said. “We have a sense of pride here at Ashwaubenon. My first go-round we were successful, Coach (Kerry) Janquardt, of course won a state championship, and Coach Herzog and the staff did a great job the past eight years putting in a ton of time and working really hard with the kids."
The season obviously doesn’t start until November, but the players are excited to play for VanLaanen, who teaches at the school. Every summer coaches get a number of contact days they can have with their team and during summer league play the coaches can watch and talk with the team before and after games if they are not coaching.
From what the players have experienced, they are excited.
"She's been where we are,” senior Eva Schaible said. “She's played basketball in this area and then went to college, so she knows what it's like. She understands us and I think she can take this program in a good direction."
"As you all may know, we haven't had a great record ever, so having a new coach and fresh start with new people is going to be exciting to see where it takes us this year," senior Lily Brown said.
VanLaanen hopes to lead her team to a great record as soon as possible, but said beyond winning she wants to see smiles on her players' faces.
"The number one goal is enthusiasm, passion and just having fun,” she said. “It's a program in the past few years that hasn't had a lot of fun."
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay