Mt. Edgecumbe High School coach Archie Young talks to an official during the Braves 63-61 loss to Nome in the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 3A Boys Basketball State Championship game at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo by Klas Stolpe)

Mt. Edgecumbe High School coach Archie Young talks to an official during the Braves 63-61 loss to Nome in the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 3A Boys Basketball State Championship game at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo by Klas Stolpe)

Archie Young: A final road trip as Mt. Edgecumbe basketball coach and teacher retires after 25 years

Long-ago star high school player became an extended family member to a generation of students.

  • By Klas Stolpe, For the Juneau Empire
  • Thursday, May 2, 2024 1:11pm
  • SportsSports

Outside the van window, the bus seats and the airline aisles, the view has morphed from new to old for retiring Mt. Edgecumbe High School basketball coach and teacher Archie Young after 25 years. But, if it makes sense, the familiarity of places revisited is often seen for the first time because of the passengers along for the ride.

It always is for basketball coaches. Especially coaches who are also educators — he taught math and physical education. Coaches who are family men — he welcomed youth into the lives of his own family, as MEHS does for youth from communities far away. Coaches who may present an exterior that, unless you have intimate knowledge of what humanity resides inside them, appear tough and contrarian on the court.

“I really appreciate his character-building, the bar he set for the boys to become young men,” said MEHS Superintendent Suzzuk Mary Huntington, a 1994 MEHS graduate. “Particularly with his basketball team but really for all the students. He holds high expectations and expects each of the students to represent our school and to go above and beyond with good behavior. He was always willing to help with admissions and greeting students when they arrived at the airport in Anchorage before coming to campus. His welcoming presence and approachability to get to know kids and make them recognize that we are proud that they are here, that we are excited they have come and that representing Mt. Edgecumbe means a lot.”

The MEHS student population is always over 85% Alaska Native, and Huntington said it was important to have teachers like Young who the students could see themselves in “on top of the care that he showed. I first knew of Archie, he came after I graduated. He was my younger brother’s basketball coach so his legacy has a long and far reach.”

Young learned early in life what path he wanted to follow.

“Oh man, that is easy,” he said. “Growing up in the housing projects in Wrangell, I can remember seeing Rick and Dino (Brock, his cousins), my brother, Guy, my cousin Rusty (Ingle) and other guys on the outdoor court chipping away the ice and snow so they could play basketball in the winter time and I always thought that was so damn cool. It was what they saw from Fred Angerman, Jabusch, Buness, those guys. That court might have been 40 feet long, but it was a full court and I remember them putting hot water down so they could play for a while.”

Mt. Edgecumbe High School coach Archie Young talks to Braves senior Kaison Herrmann during the Braves 63-61 loss to Nome in the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 3A Boys Basketball State Championship game at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo by Klas Stolpe)

Mt. Edgecumbe High School coach Archie Young talks to Braves senior Kaison Herrmann during the Braves 63-61 loss to Nome in the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 3A Boys Basketball State Championship game at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo by Klas Stolpe)

Archie’s father, Frank Young Jr., began bringing Archie to the gym when he was in kindergarten and first grade. Frank was coaching third-, fourth- and fifth-grade kids.

“I taught Archie to shoot from the time he had a diaper on,” Frank Young laughed. “When I first taught him, I started with a layup. Once he made that, it was a turning point. Each year I let him shoot further and further out. You could really see that the love for the game was in him.”

“Baseball was actually my first love, but those two sports I could play all day, every day,” Archie Young said. “We didn’t have social media and electronics like today. You went outside. You did that all day long.”

Young was a four-year starter for the Wrangell Wolves, averaging 33 points per game and double-figure rebounds through graduation in 1991.

“Back in 1987, when I first rolled into Wrangell, there was a scrawny kid on a bicycle and I didn’t know who he was,” former Wrangell coach Ray Stokes said. “Before long I knew who he was because immediately I got busy with open gyms and he showed up as a freshman. I got to know the family really well, and I can’t say enough good things about the entire family. I got to know Archie really well on the court and in the classroom. I knew he had what it was going to take, even though physically it wasn’t there immediately, at some point he was going to be a force and that was exactly what happened…If teams played him inside, he went outside. If they played him outside, he went inside, and he had good team chemistry. But more than that it was him and his whole family, the character that they have, hopefully I didn’t slow him down any that way…He had a great career coaching at Mt. Edgecumbe and, you know, I don’t think about it as just basketball as it was his character. That is what it is all about. Basketball is just a game. As far as life, it really doesn’t even move the needle, but certainly there are lessons to learn from it and friendships formed through the game, and men like Archie you are close to until you die.”

Back “in the day,” the hoops season started in October.

In Young’s freshman season, the Wolves were tied for first place going into Christmas break when two starters, a top scorer and a top rebounder, and a top substitute were dismissed from the squad for violating team rules. They did not win another game that year despite how hard Young and his teammates worked.

“It was a part of the game I hated,” Stokes said. “I couldn’t stand removing a player from the team…but rules were rules.”

Young has had to make that decision while coaching, notably in 2011 after the Braves won the 3A Region V Title and then defeated 4A Juneau-Douglas in the crossover championship game. Future professional player Travante Williams broke MEHS team rules and forfeited his trip to state.

“Unfortunately, I was only able to do one year at MEHS, my senior year in high school was my first time playing varsity basketball,” Williams said. “But that year was so special for me, it changed my life. It was everything. Looking at it now, it was the move that started and saved my career. I was able to learn what it takes to eventually be a professional. Discipline, hard work, being part of a team. I was able to learn through Archie and my experience at MEHS. That entire year was a highlight for me, traveling all over Southeast Alaska and playing was amazing. Winning the crossover game in Juneau was amazing, and I will never forget that…I have always looked at Archie as a father figure, like most people who have come across him. His passion not just for the sport but for bettering people is uncanny. He’s one of those people that have shaped and molded me into the man I am today. Extremely thankful for his influence on my life. Truly a special person, and I am forever thankful for that experience. You know, he was 37 and still getting buckets. I don’t think we ever played one-on-one, but he would outshoot anybody on any day. I was never ever able to compete with him shooting. But if I saw him now at the gym I wouldn’t hold back (laughs) I would take it to him, and he to me.”

Mt. Edgecumbe High School coach Archie Young instructs Braves players during the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 3A Boys Basketball State Championship game against Nome at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo by Klas Stolpe)

Mt. Edgecumbe High School coach Archie Young instructs Braves players during the 2024 ASAA March Madness Alaska 3A Boys Basketball State Championship game against Nome at Anchorage’s Alaska Airlines Center. (Photo by Klas Stolpe)

When Young was a sophomore (1989), the Wolves won the region title. As a junior they were the No. 2 seed to state behind Haines, and in his senior season Young guided the Wolves to a region title and state runner-up finish. He was a three-time All-State selection.

Young attended Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, averaging double figures in points and rebounds.

“Very eye-opening,” Young said of his first college game. “Even though it was community college, the pace and the athleticism were intense. I don’t remember my first college basket, but I remember the first dunk I missed because I threw it in the bleachers.”

While at Clark he would find open gyms and play against future professionals such as the University of Oregon’s Antoine Stoudamire, his cousin Damon Stoudamire at the University of Arizona and the Portland Trailblazers’ Kevin Duckworth to name a few. Top players were attracted to top competition, and Young found himself at times among Oregon State and Pac 10 Conference pickup games with Seattle Supersonics and Portland pros thrown in.

Young said his original plan was to walk on at Oregon State, but “I had a bad experience at junior college, the whole atmosphere in general, just had a real negative experience all around. For me, I wanted discipline and expectations. Our coach didn’t have the respect of the players. It left me feeling like ‘if this is college basketball, I want nothing to do with it.’ Especially after playing for coach Stokes, whom everyone respected and he earned that respect.”

Young knew what players should expect from a coach and vice versa. While watching his younger brothers Keith and Kevin play for Wrangell and Stokes in the 1994 high school state tournament at West Anchorage, he was inspired and enrolled at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“After watching them play I was like, ‘OK, I want to start playing for real again, get back into competition again,’” he said. “I actually went to UAF with the idea that I wasn’t going to play anymore. I was just going to go there, but I did ask the coaches if I could practice just in case.”

After redshirting the ’94 season, Young played in ’95 and ’96, averaging double figures, he became a member of the 500-point club and held the record for most 3-pointers in a game.

“I loved it,” he said. “In hindsight, I wish I had been more dedicated and more serious. Unfortunately for me, if I am being critical of myself, the camaraderie and hanging out, and stuff like that — and I don’t mean drinking — just the extracurricular, so to speak, that goes with being a college athlete, just being at events and being a young man chasing, took me away from my focus and what I was really there for. I allowed myself to be distracted and not put the time in that I wish I would have.”

Young’s career as an educator was focused when UAF coach George Roderick called him to his office to remind him, as a junior, an NCAA athlete has to take classes towards a degree to stay eligible.

While walking back to campus Young thought, “Education sounds easy, I’ll go for education. Honest-to-god truth. I thought, ‘It doesn’t sound bad, let’s try that.’ It wasn’t academically challenging, but I came to find out it was professionally challenging.”

Mt. Edgecumbe coach Archie Young is shown walking off the court with his son Keian and members of the Braves team at the 2024 state tournament in March. (Photo by Klas Stolpe)

Mt. Edgecumbe coach Archie Young is shown walking off the court with his son Keian and members of the Braves team at the 2024 state tournament in March. (Photo by Klas Stolpe)

After UAF, Young took a year off to work construction with his father. In the spring of ’99, on a nine-month remodeling job in Sitka for the Coast Guard, then MEHS principal Hal Spackman approached Young and a conversation led to a teaching and coaching job at MEHS one month later. On a side note, Spackman coached the 1985 Haines girls to a triple-overtime state title win over Wrangell, which featured Young’s cousin Lovie Brock, who fouled out in the second extra stanza.

The passion of basketball has carried through the generations of the Young and Brock families, and they still try to gather in Wrangell over the Fourth of July for family olympics. Petersburg coach Rick Brock’s son and daughters have played for Petersburg girls coach Dino Brock. Rick is an ’82 Wrangell grad, Dino in ’83. Cousins have been teammates at adult tournaments, such as Gold Medal and the Sitka Invitational. Young’s sophomore niece Taylor (Keith’s daughter) helped the South Medford Lady Panthers win the Oregon 6A state title this season and earned a first-team All-State selection.

Cherie Young, Archie’s mother, said her favorite highlight, aside from family gatherings, was the 2020 Mt. Edgecumbe title win over Sitka. “At the last official 2A/3A/4A Region V tournament in Juneau to clinch the 3A championship. That was the year the three cousins (Archie, Rick and Dino) each won their division championship. A once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment for sure. That was very special because of how close they were as cousins. Sadly, COVID struck that weekend so they were not able to compete at state.”

Young’s teams at Mt. Edgecumbe have won eight region titles and gone to state 14 times. He doesn’t remember his first win there.

“I remember my first loss was to Wrangell and coach Stokes,” he laughed. “They came to our gym and kicked our butts both nights. It was Cody Angerman’s senior year and they were very good, favored to win state.”

Young said as a new coach he was very frustrated, “both because they couldn’t do what I wanted and even more so that I couldn’t explain it in a way that made sense to them…it was a lack of patience on my part and a lot of assumed knowledge that I didn’t have.”

In Young’s office two posters are prominent. One says “Only one team wins the last game of the year.” The other, attributed to acclaimed sports psychologist Dr. Keith Bell, states “Winning isn’t normal. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with winning. It just isn’t the norm. It’s highly unusual…In order to win, you must do extraordinary things. You can’t just be one of the crowd. The crowd doesn’t win. You have to be willing to stand out and act differently.”

This season, wins accumulated quickly and Young guided the team with the “three Hs.”

“Being Honest with ourselves about our effort, being Humble about who we are and what we’re doing and being Hungry to keep doing it, to keep winning,” he said. “We just tried to continue to do what we had done and try to be a bit better.”

In December the Braves’ travels included victories at Soldotna (78-36) and Kenai (65-20) and at home over Redington (70-34).

Senior Kaison Herrmann, from Koliganek, has attended MEHS for three years.

“There are way more people here,” he said. “Way more students, more interactions. I had to get comfortable pretty fast, and Archie helped with that. I missed home a lot…”

Young schedules games during the season at venues where family members can attend.

“It feels great, like a welcoming home,” Herrmann said. “It means a lot to spend time with family and not be away the whole year… all the trips, all the hard work we put in, it all pays off…the guys coming together every single day, the trips we had, the memories we made. I won’t ever forget that…I will be talking to Archie a lot after I graduate, a lot…”

Freshman Kaden Herrmann followed his brother to MEHS, along with a cousin, and that has helped the transition.

“Traveling with Archie and getting to play with my older brother for his last season has been special,” he said.

In January, the Braves hosted North Pole (70-48) and Eielson (69-19) and traveled to Barrow (57-56).

Barrow’s Bryce Brower, a ’74 MEHS grad who always made a point to come across the floor when MEHS visited and shake the players’ hands and argue against the home refs, did so again. He passed from cancer two weeks after MEHS visited this season. Young wore a special hoodie at state this year to honor him.

“I felt very fortunate that we were able to give him a brief positive moment in his life near the end,” Young said. “Finding out later that we could be a spot of happiness for him meant a lot to me.”

Senior Tyrell Cromer, from Hoonah, just finished his second year at MEHS, and said being away from family and staying in dorms “was difficult at the beginning because I had never been away from home for so long.”

Young helped ease the transition with teammates and new friends and Cromer said: “The team meant a lot to me…Archie has left a big impact on me the last two years, both in basketball and being in classes, just learning from him. He has taught us that hard work gets you places, but it doesn’t guarantee success. It guarantees the opportunity for success.”

February brought Kotzebue (89-42 and 87-51), Houston (87-58), Redington (93-32 and 79-45), Sitka (85-56), and Lathrop (89-56 and 78-59) to the Braves’ court; and travel across the bridge to Sitka (64-58), and across southeast to Ketchikan (69-64) and Petersburg (83-57 and 70-49); and inviting Sitka home (76-40) for senior night.

“Parents this year have been awesome,” Young said. “We’ve had parents that came to Barrow with us, went to Kenai with us, we had grandparents at conference games and regionals. This is the first time that I can recall at Senior Night that every one of my seniors had a parent or parents there for them.”

Young said he was able to put the emotion of his final season in the back of his head because “it is about my seniors and my kids. I have done a really good job of just focusing on them and not spending time thinking about what it is for me.”

March saw the Eastern Conference tournament at Sitka with wins over Redington 69-29 and Sitka 61-55 for the title.

Junior Donovan Standifer, from Tyonek, has been at MEHS three years.

“The seasons with Archie have meant a lot,” Standifer said. “Being away from family and friends was hard, but he showed us what hard work accomplishes. Being in the state championship game was really special. There are not many people that get to experience that. I am happy I got to experience that. I will be returning here. The education is better overall, but I will miss him. Basketball is a thing I do, but it is not the main reason I am here and he has helped me see that.”

At the Alaska School Activities Association March Madness Alaska state tournament, the Braves handled Hutchison 66-20 in the quarterfinals and Valdez 67-38 in the semifinals.

“I feel like I have known Archie a long time,” ASAA Executive Director Billy Strickland said at the venue’s semifinal. Strickland is a former Bethel coach and teacher and faced Young’s Braves in the 2013 state third-place game. “I have just admired what he has done down there in a super unique coaching position in our state with the boarding school element…building a culture of team with students from all over, some he has for four years, some just one, that constant tweaking of chemistry and style is difficult, but creates unique opportunities. He does an excellent job with that. I think teams reflect their coach. Mt. Edgecumbe has that grit and never-say-die, hard-work ethic, and it is a real testimony to him. I think he leaves players better off for the future, and that is what we hope for all our coaches. I am happy for him to ride off into the sunset in the big game tonight. He is a class act. Just a great guy.”

The road has been long. Sunsets are to be enjoyed, no matter where they slip out of sight.

A final road trip should, if it were a Hollywood movie, end with a last-second shot for the state title. If it were Bollywood, the fans would dance down onto the court and pirouette in cohesion with the players.

But this is real life.

A Nome last-second shot went in, a Mt. Edgecumbe desperation jumper did not. Final score 63-61 Nome. A road sign that only represents a destination, not the journey.

Parents of the players, parents of past players, fans old and new, all who traveled from somewhere to the Alaska Airlines Center chanted coach Young’s name after the final buzzer sounded, and the team exchanged hugs.

In the locker room after, Young talked about the hard work they put in, about how one loss doesn’t define a season and what they shared.

“The moments that coaches remember are not a play in a game here or there,” he said. “It is the helicopter ride we got to take in Barrow and see 20 polar bears feeding on a whale carcass…it is the laughter and smiles when we play Heads Up or Charades…After that last game, we talked about how hard we worked and that they need to continue to work ‘because hard work doesn’t guarantee success, hard work provides you opportunities’…There are no guarantees, but they need to continue to work hard in life to hopefully give themselves more opportunities. I try to tell my players that I will be as much a part of their lives as they want me to be. We won’t see each other every day, we won’t text every day, we won’t talk every day, but I hope they feel comfortable to contact me if they want to talk…and then I hope to be at their wedding someday, and I hope to meet their children someday. This is just the start of their lives and our friendship together.”

In late March, Young was selected the 3A Coach of the Year by the Alaska Basketball Coaches Association, based on ballots received by coaches in each class for play through the season. Petersburg’s Rick Brock was 2A Coach of the Year, and Thunder Mountain’s John Blasco was the 4A selection.

“Coach of the Year is nice, but it is a team award,” Young said. “If the players don’t work and the players don’t win, then the coach doesn’t get it. It is definitely a reflection of them, their effort and their success this year.”

In April, Young and Brock — whose Vikings’ teams had exchanged baskets with Young’s Braves throughout the years — coached together at the ABCA senior all-star game in Anchorage.

“It was awesome to work with him instead of coaching against him,” Brock said. “Enjoyed talking hoops on the sideline, and hearing his interactions with the players and officials. His teams were always difficult to prepare for because of their half-court defensive scheme and how hard his kids played. You had to bring your A game on the sideline to try and match X and Os with him. He definitely made me a better coach.”

As the 2024 MEHS school year wound down, Young dressed in his casual finest, his wife Monica Chase on his arm, attended the prom of his final class of seniors.

The couple had met in 2009 at the Village Inn on Northern Lights Boulevard in Anchorage during a team dinner at the state volleyball tournament. Young was assistant coach to Rich Calkins on the MEHS volleyball team, and Chase’s daughter, Kayla Kashevarof, was a Lady Braves player.

“What stood out at that time, and still does, is how much love and respect the students and athletes have for him, and what he has for them,” Monica Chase said. “He has really immersed himself in Mt. Edgecumbe and has learned to fully love this school and what it means being a Brave.”

Being a Brave was fostered by experiences with legacies Gil Truitt, Bob Chastain, Michael Bezesekoff Sr. and his wife Emily (known affectionately and referred to as Grandpa B and Grandma B), among others. These were the moments where one can pull off the highway of life and plan for the next miles.

Said Chase: “All of the original teachers from the 1980s and mentors of MEHS taught him about growing our students into Braves, and I know that is a void the school will have after this year.”

Young was honored at the MEHS Sports Banquet on Tuesday night. In June Archie, Monica and their son Keian are moving to Anchorage.

When asked what makes a successful season, Young said: “Shared moments. And they don’t have to be basketball moments. Shared laughter. Sometimes even shared tears. And just getting better. If we’re a lot better in March than when we started, I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job as a team and coaches. It was hard for me to see that early on but it really is just about helping people become as good as they can and understand that they are capable of more than they thought. Especially as a teammate.”

Many of Young’s charges over the seasons have come from dysfunctional families.

“They remind me of how lucky I was to have the family that I had,” he said. “I have had too many kids whose dad or mom was not a part of their life. It really grounds me to appreciate what I have in a family and who I am as a father and then also to remember when I am working with them that maybe for one or two of these kids, or five or six of these kids, I am a positive male in their life and their future, too. For a lot of our kids we are the positive adults in their life. It just reminds you to be grateful, appreciative and be humble, in that honor so to speak…I am thankful that every kid at Mt. Edgecumbe can find an adult they can kind of latch on to. Sometimes they just want to come sit in your office and have lunch and not say a word. Sometimes they want to talk about random things, but it is very special. You need to see every kid just latch on to somebody and that’s their ray of sunshine every day. And that is just really cool to see and is something I will really miss about the district.”

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