HIBBING — If or when the 2020-21 high school winter sports season begins,, the Hibbing High School girls basketball team will have a new leader on the bench.
Dave LaCoe stepped down from that position after last season, and taking over the reins will be former assistant and B-squad coach Matt Erickson.
Erickson has been with the program for six years, and he thought it was time to make the jump to the top position.
“I went back-and-forth about doing it, but I felt committed to the girls,” Erickson said. “I wanted to do it for them. Eventually, I wanted to become a head coach, but I didn’t think it would be this early.
“I was hoping for more experience as an assistant. Through the years, I’ve become more confident as a coach. I’m excited about it. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. Is there ever a right time? When the opportunity is there, you have to take it.”
LaCoe’s departure came as a surprise to Erickson.
“I know he has some personal things that have come up, and he did mention that he wouldn’t be doing this forever,” Erickson said. “We had a little banquet last year, but we never got together to recap the season together as coaches, like we normally do.
“It’s never an easy decision, but at some point, you have to give it up. You can’t do it forever, but when things are going well, it’s hard to leave, but he had to do that for himself, too.”
Erickson is taking over a team that made it to the Section 7AAA finals last year, losing to Hermantown by two points.
“We’ve made progress every year,” Erickson said. “I don’t know if I’ll change much right away, but changes will come eventually. I like what Dave, I and Shaun (Howard) have done. We’re heading in the right direction.”
In Erickson’s six years, the Bluejackets were eliminated in the first round of the players his first two seasons. In the next two years, Hibbing was eliminated in the semifinals. The last two years, there was one state-tourney appearance, then the loss to Hermantown last year.
“We’ve had a good group of girls coming through the program,” Erickson said. “That shows the work they’ve put in, and the work we’ve put in as coaches. I’d like to expand the youth program a little bit, and get some different things in there.”
Erickson credits LaCoe, Hibbing boys coach Joel McDonald and former Chisholm coach Bob McDonald for his rise in the coaching ranks.
“I’ve looked up to Joel and Dave,” Erickson said. “They’re good basketball minds, and they run good programs. I’ve had good mentors playing under Joel and coaching with Dave.
“That all stems back from them going through Bob’s program. Bob coached for so long. He’s touched a lot of other programs with the people that went through his program.”
With COVID-19 putting a pause on the season, Erickson started some virtual practices Monday, but he’s looking forward to beginning his first season as coach with in-person practices.
“This isn’t exactly how I wanted my coaching career to start, with all of this adversity,” Erickson said. “If I can come out of this with a good team, which I know I have, it’ll be a confidence boost for my future as a coach.
“It’s all about working together and trying to achieve a common goal of getting better every day, and trying to make it to the state tournament.”