Liberty Bell High School interim boys’ basketball coach Ryan Surface has been officially named as the head coach, Liberty Bell Activities Director Michael Wilbur announced Friday (June 17).
Surface replaces former coach Nate Chrastina, who was dismissed after being suspended by the Methow Valley School District halfway through the 2021-22 basketball season.
Surface, like recently hired girls’ head coach Korrie Bourn, is a Mountain Lion alum and former basketball player, playing his senior year in 1995-96 for Mike Ankrem after his first three years at the Methow Valley Christian Academy under then-coach Rocky Kulsrud.
Surface is a Methow Valley product, growing up here with parents Larry and Janey Surface. His brother Chad is the Mountain Lion softball coach and sister Janelle lives out of the valley. He currently occupies himself during the day working with Jeff and Molly Patterson planning and building things, including the recent expansion of the Glover Street Market.
Surface’s wife, Tiffany (Taylor), is also homegrown and former Liberty Bell cross country, track and basketball athlete. She is a fourth-grade teacher at Methow Valley Elementary School and a Booster Club volunteer. They have two children: Mac will be a sophomore at Liberty Bell this fall, and daughter Katie will be in the seventh grade.
Surface has a long resume of coaching experience at Liberty Bell, having served as a volunteer AAU coach, middle school coach for five years, five years doubling as the boys C Squad coach and girls’ assistant coach, and assisting with the boys’ varsity as the JV coach for a couple different stints under three head coaches: Aaron Burkhart, Kyle Acord and most recently, Chrastina. He also serves as assistant coach under David Aspholm in the Mountain Lion baseball program.
Surface assumed the “interim head coach” label about halfway through the recent 2021-22 season and finished the year with a very young team oozing with potential.
There is an old basketball saw about how “you can’t coach height.” For Surface, he recognizes the challenge, but his young players are predominantly freshmen and sophomores going into the next season and he looks for several of them to grow.
“I’d like to see several of them put on about 6 to 8 inches”, he said with a laugh. “Mostly, we’re going to continue to work on hustle, hard work and having fun. We’ll be really athletic, stronger and well-rounded.”
For the longer term, Surface is hoping to build a culture similar to when he played, with Liberty Bell as a strong district contender and regular participant at the state tournament. “We’re going to get started right away, though,” he said on Monday. “We played at the Okanogan Summer League last week and had some success, beating Okanogan once and Tonasket twice.”
This week the Mountain Lions’ summer itinerary takes them to Eastern Washington University for a set of games that opens with 2022 state champion Liberty (Spangle). They also have a date with perennial power Colfax while in Cheney.
Recognizing that a strong youth program can pay dividends down the road, Surface would like to see the AAU program grow and build an excitement around basketball that will carry on for years to come.
“I’d like to get more fans and kids to games and build our program from the younger ages and up,” he said. “Building a foundation of kids and parents will be key to long term success. I’d like us to be a regular at state and not just every now and then.”
He would also like to connect with the Winthrop and Twisp business communities to get more publicity out in the neighborhoods. “I have some ideas around reader boards and advertising that will help get the word out and encourage the local communities to come support the kids.,” he said.
One gets the idea that coaching the Mountain Lions might be pretty close to his dream job.
“Mostly, I’m just trying to wrap my head around the whole thing,” Surface said. But then, with his long resumé of basketball experience, the head-wrapping thing shouldn’t take that long, and success, however it might be measured, shouldn’t be too far behind.
- Liberty Bell junior-to-be distance runner Will Halpin has gotten a jump on the Mountain Lion summer running program, heading for the wet side of the Cascades. Halpin made a stop in the Rose City last week for the Portland Track Festival, an all-comers meet with age classifications for kids, high schoolers and a masters division.
It was an elite group of runners, mostly from the Pacific Northwest, and provided some pretty outlandish time recordings on the track. Halpin took to the surface to run the 1,500 meters and true mile run where he recorded personal best times 4:18 and 4:35, respectively. Benjamin Balasz of Portland won both races, zooming to a 4:08 time in the mile run.
- Also new to the Mountain Lion roster of coaches will be Beth Blank, who will head up the volleyball program this fall. Blank has assisted with coaching duties in the past and volunteered as well. Her daughter Ellie will be a senior this coming year and hopes to return to both volleyball and tennis after a year’s hiatus recovering from reconstructive knee surgery. More to come on both Blanks as the season draws closer.
- Liberty Bell Activities Director and youth baseball volunteer parent Michael Wilbur headed up a huge set of baseball projects on June 11. With the help of the Winthrop Kiwanis Club, Wilbur was able to procure enough infield clay/dirt mix to completely redress the infields of the Mountain Lion baseball and softball fields as well as the infield at the Winthrop ball park.
Players, coaches and parents from the youth program, high school programs, Kiwanis and community all pitched in to accomplish the field dressings in that one day.
Wilbur was grateful to all those who helped out, saying the effort was amazing in light of everything else that was going on that morning. “They did a great job,” said Wilbur. “It was a lot of work, but those fields all look beautiful.”