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SBLive's Washington high school boys basketball coach of the year 2021-22: Auburn's Ryan Hansen led program to historic heights

Hansen led the Trojans to a 27-2 season, won the WIAA Class 3A state championship — the program's first — and earned a spot in the State Champions Invitational national tournament in April.

What goes through a coach's mind after winning a state championship?

Here's a glimpse offered by Ryan Hansen, in the frantic moments after the buzzer sounded in Auburn's state title win over Rainier Beach on March 5, a program-first for the Trojans and career-first for Hansen:

"I don’t want it to hit me," he said. "I want to hold on. I might take my time getting out of the locker room with those guys. I’ve been coaching some of those kids since second grade. I’ve known them for a super long time. I’m just so proud of them. To see them be able to finish like this, celebrate like this, it’s something they’ve worked hard for. It’s awesome."

According to rumors (and at least one of his own players' instagram accounts), Hansen even went shirtless in a locker room celebration and broke out the "griddy dance." 

As the town of Auburn has rallied to celebrate, the shine of the accomplishment hasn't worn off. 

Auburn (27-2) ran the table in the 3A NPSL and beat Eastside Catholic, Federal Way, Ferris, O'Dea, Tahoma, Gig Harbor and Timberline — all state tournament teams — on its way to Tacoma. Once in the Dome, the Hansen-led group swept three Metro League stalwarts on its way to the 3A state title: No. 1 Garfield, No. 5 Seattle Prep and No. 4 Rainier Beach.

The reality? The Trojans' title was years in the making. 

When Hansen was tapped as Auburn's coach in 2002, longtime athletic director Bob Jones told him his No. 1 goal should be to win a state championship. 

"[Jones] told me your job every year is to win a state championship," Hansen said. "We’ve been doing it for 20 years and we’ve finally got one."

20 years later, the Trojans met that expectation and beat 10 of the other 11 teams in the 3A field, including the top five Metro League teams, along the way. The championship came in 2022, five years after Jones died of pancreatic cancer. Still, the job is completed, the expectation — lofty as it is — has been met.

Hansen always hoped to reach that mantle. But he didn't know he'd be doing it with a group of kids — including his son, Saint Martin's signee Kaden Hansen — who weren't yet born when he took over the program.

He's coached and known many of the Trojans' seven seniors since they were in elementary school and watched them grow up, develop as basketball players and found success together playing youth travel ball. 

In 2020, Auburn reached the first round of the 4A state tournament with a baby-faced, underclassmen-led group. In 2020-21, COVID-19 rid the Trojans of a chance at state. They went 15-0 anyway after classing down from 3A. Hansen opened his backyard sport court — where bad misses roll past a deliberately backstop-free slope, into thorn bushes — to his core group while the world was shut down. 

Those runs, he says, were formative in keeping the dream alive. 

"Now look at us," senior Dae'Kwon Watson said, "we’re state champs."

SBLive's all-state basketball teams

(All photos by Vince Miller)