After a few years away from basketball, Karli Brakes is back to the hardwood — this time as a coach.
Brakes, a former standout point guard for the Crimson Bears who graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School in 2011, was head coach for Anchorage Christian Schools’ junior high team this year and is an assistant coach for the high school team that is seeking its fourth-straight 3A state championship.
“I got in contact with the head coach, Chad Dyson, and I sat down with him, and he started to tell me about his program and the culture that he’s built, and I immediately connected with his vision for the girls, and that was the next level,” Brakes said in a phone interview. “Getting them into college programs and having them focus not just on their basketball goals, but their academics. It’s a Christian private school, so there’s spiritual growth as well.”
Brakes played college basketball for two years at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington, where she starred with fellow JDHS alumna Taylor Larson. Later, Brakes played for a year at Lethbridge College in Lethbridge, Canada.
“I definitely missed Alaska at that time, and I decided to come back and finish my education at UAA (University of Alaska Anchorage),” Brakes said. “At that time, I really just wanted to focus on my career and what I wanted to do for a living, and I really just dropped basketball.”
She said while attending UAA she worked two service jobs to stay free of debt — previously Brakes had basketball scholarships — and she was eager to enter the workforce. Brakes, who is Tlingit, is now kept busy serving on the board of directors for the Alaska Native Professionals Association and working as a public outreach coordinator for a mining company.
“I can’t really say enough good things about her,” Dyson said in a phone interview. “She goes to work, then she shows up here after work.”
He said that level of commitment can be rate for a junior high coach, and praised Brakes’ basketball knowledge.
“If she wanted it, I think she could go get a head high school job somewhere if it opened up,” Dyson said.
Brakes, who is the daughter of former JDHS defensive coordinator Eddie Brakes, said she’s enjoying coaching.
“It’s very rewarding,” Brakes said. “I’m learning a lot. I’m glad that I took a large break from it. I’m super-competitive. For a long time, it was hard for me to go to the UAA girls’ basketball games because I really want to get out on the court.”
During Brakes’ short tenure with the Lady Lions, the team has mostly continued the success that’s defined recent years for Anchorage Christian Schools girls basketball. The Lady Lions are 10-1 this year overall and 1-0 in their conference.
That one loss was Anchorage Christian Schools’ first loss in 57 games, Dyson said.
Brakes said the girls did a good job of taking their first loss in a long time in stride. “I was mostly in the role of saying, this is a learning experience,” Brakes said. “You’re not invincible. Especially with being state champions, you come with a target on your back. Chad Dyson does a really great job with teaching the girls any life lessons that go along with the loss. There are going to be some unfortunate circumstances that you find yourself in that you don’t have any control over, and it’s about how you decide to react, how you prepare for the next game.”
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.