New Washougal coach plans to make only ‘minor tweaks’ to winning girls basketball team

Tim Melcher was an assistant coach for Clark College women's basketball before taking Washougal High coaching gig

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Washougal High girls basketball coach Tim Melcher watches his team play its first home game of the 2022-23 season on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Tim Melcher has served as a coach for recreational, middle school, high school and college basketball teams for more than 20 years, and they’ve all had one thing in common.

“Everywhere I’ve been along the way in my coaching career has been a ‘rebuild,” he said. “I’ve had to go in and completely change the culture, start over, bring a whole new system, and try to rebuild a program and get it going in the right direction.”

That certainly won’t be the case at his new job. Melcher is the new Washougal High School girls basketball coach, replacing Britney Ervin, who resigned earlier this year after leading the Panthers to a 17-7 record and a 2A state tournament appearance last season.

“I knew Washougal wasn’t going to necessarily be (a rebuild) — just minor tweaks here and there,” said Melcher, who spent the 2021-22 season as an assistant coach for the Clark College women’s basketball team. “I wanted the job because I wanted to impart my coaching philosophy on a program (without) changing the culture completely.”

The Panthers’ winning culture was fostered during Ervin’s tenure, which began in 2017, and included three state tournament berths and a state championship in 2019. Melcher doesn’t want to fix what isn’t broken, and isn’t planning on completely revamping the program.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not planning on making a few changes.

“I bring a different dynamic, a different energy level, a different approach to defense,” he said. “Those pieces are going to be different from what the previous coaching staff did, but obviously I want to do it at a very high level because that’s what we do at the collegiate level. The biggest thing is taking that culture of winning and just putting my spin on it, imparting my philosophies and my discipline. We’re not starting over, but we’re starting at the base foundation (that was already here) and building from there.

“And I want them to enjoy this experience,” he continued. “When they leave, I want them to know that they not only gave everything to Washougal basketball, but also had a lot of fun, too, and enjoyed the experience of being a part of this program. I never want to speak ill of anybody, but I think, from what I’ve heard and what I understand, that was something that was lacking (previously). That has always been my coaching philosophy, but I think it was a perfect fit for Washougal because that was something that they were looking for directly.”

The team’s players have responded positively to Melcher’s tutelage, according to senior point guard Chloe Johnson.

“I’m very happy that he’s the guy we hired because at first, I was really nervous — I had the same coach my whole high school (career, and I thought) it was definitely a bummer that we switched it up,” Johnson said. “But it’s going smoothly. We already have a pretty good relationship with everyone on the coaching staff. (Melcher) has a really good coaching style. There’s been some times when we’ve been confused because we’re used to different things, but he’s super open to (answering) questions and walking us through stuff.”

The Panthers’ new look is not limited to the coaching staff — for the first time since 2014, Washougal’s roster does not feature a member of the Bea family. Jaiden Bea, the team’s leading scorer during the 2021-22 season, graduated earlier this year, following her cousins Skylar (2021) and Beyonce (2018) to the University of Idaho.

“It’s definitely been the ‘Bea Show’ for a while,” Johnson said.

In their absence, Melcher is looking for other players to step up and make a name for themselves.

“I think the girls are excited because a lot of them are getting a fresh start — a new look and a new opportunity,” he said. “Some players are coming back that haven’t played in a couple of years because they’re excited about a new opportunity. I think optimism is there. We know what our expectations are, and we know what we need to do to get there. We’re just trying to come together as a team and keep working hard.”

“I’ve always taken it very seriously, everyone else has always taken it very seriously, but it almost feels like some of the fun is being brought back into it because some of my friends who haven’t played (in the past two years) are back,” Johnson added. “The love for the sport is almost re-sparked. It’s exciting.”

Despite all of the changes, however, one thing about the team remains the same — its own high expectations.

“I have a very positive outlook on the season,” Johnson said. “Our team is super young, and we’re kind of going back to fundamentals, which is not a bad thing (because a) lot of the kids don’t have varsity level experience. We’re taking a step back, and we’re growing as a team together, and it’s exciting.

“But we definitely still have very high expectations. The goal this year is to be league champs. We lost a lot of talent, but every (other) team in the league lost a lot of talent. It feels like it’s anyone’s game.”