That’s been the question of the week for most who follow the western Nevada County high school girls basketball scene.
Why would Bear River’s Duwaine Ganskie step away from 16 years of wearing the Cardinal and Gray, only to sign on for the head coaching gig at cross county rival Nevada Union?
After all, in his stint on the Bruin bench, Ganskie had led Bear River’s girls from the anonymity that comes with competing for a newly constructed school to grabbing headlines as one of the premier prep programs in the greater Sacramento area.
Eleven league championships, eight section titles and three NorCal state crowns were enough reason for Bruin fans to believe there would be much of the same on the horizon for Bear River girls basketball, a Division III program.
But those very banners, now hanging high inside Jack R. McCrory Gymnasium, just might offer some insight as to why the coach who helped collect them is now leaving.
“I just felt at this point, I’d really done everything I planned on doing when I came to Bear River,” said Ganskie, who will also teach mathematics at NU. “When I looked at the future, what was next, I wondered what else can we accomplish? I think we did what what we planned on doing. And looking down the road, I saw there was an opportunity there.”
That opportunity opened up about 17 miles north along Highway 49 earlier this year, when Craig Strohm decided to step down after 19 years – and five section titles, five section runner-up finishes and six league championships – at the helm of the Nevada Union girls program.
Less than three full months after Nevada Union, a Division I school, said goodbye to somewhat of a local legend, the Miners now welcome one of the south county variety onto the Grass Valley campus.
“It’s a great choice,” said Strohm. “They’re getting a proven commodity. I think Nevada Union is extremely fortunate. Coach Ganskie’s coaching ability is only surpassed by his integrity as a person.
“You know, our coaching staff used to have a slogan ‘Tradition would never graduate.’ Well, now I think we’re going to see tradition hasn’t retired either. I think the Lady Miner alumni can sleep well, knowing the program is in good hands.”
Strohm should know. He and Ganskie squared off in what the former Miner coach called “chess matches” and “civil wars” each season, something Strohm said he will especially miss. Ganskie said he was glad to now have a colleague and resource like Strohm just down the hallway.
“He’s been very helpful, kind of weaning me into this new job,” Ganskie said. “I look forward to chatting with him every day at school. He’s one of the most pleasant people to be around. He’s so witty and funny. I have no reservations about (his predecessor still teaching at the school) at all.
“I’m sure there will be some comparisons, with some people thinking we should be doing things, maybe, somewhat the way he did them. But I am going to do it my way. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out, but I’m sure it’s going to be a really fantastic experience.”
Even though he looks forward to his future at NU, Ganskie said the decision didn’t exactly come easily. After such a long and successful tenure at Bear River, the emotions were running high when he informed next year’s returning players of the move.
“Those were the two toughest days I had in my 16 years at Bear River,” Ganskie said. “I really learned something about my coaching during that time, when I talked to each of the kids individually.
“I would really become a fan of those kids. I couldn’t wait for game time, not necessarily to see if we would win or lose, but how they would play. You put in so much time with them that you want to see how they play and progress.
“It just hit me that I won’t get to root for those kids like I used to. I won’t get to see them progress in their senior year. I won’t get to be a part of their last year – their payoff year. But I will be picking up paper the first thing in the morning and reading about them.”
The fact that Ganskie heads to a school that some see as a rival – geographically if not divisionally – had the coach wondering how his decision would be received by those in the community, especially the current and future Bruins.
“I think after I told them there was some sense of abandonment, a sense of loss for awhile – they were probably a little angry with me, I’ll venture to say,” Ganskie said. “But that has changed in about the last week or so.”
Whether some Bruin fans are still seeing red over the decision, a parent of some of his former players said she would be surprised if anyone in the Bear River community wished him anything but the best.
Two of Deborah Brown’s daughters played for Ganskie, including Meaghan Noud, a 2003 graduate, and Colleen Noud, a current junior at BRHS. Her youngest daughter, Erin Noud, an incoming freshman, looked forward to someday taking the floor for him.
“I’m disappointed, but only because I’d love to have all my kids coached by him,” Brown said. “My kids have played soccer, volleyball and basketball – in school and in AAU – and no coach gets as much respect, at least from what I’ve seen, as Ganskie. That’s not because he’s mean or because he yells, but because he’s incredibly reasonable and the girls see that. They really love him and want to work him.
“I’m not bitter. He gives 100 percent of himself to this and he has to do what is right for himself.”
The fact that the Ganskies won’t have to move from their Alta Sierra home made the opportunity all that more enticing, they said. His wife, Linda, who teaches English at Grant High School in Sacramento, said she had pushed the coach to apply there once it became clear he was ready for a new challenge.
“I tried to get him to go to Grant,” said Linda of Nevada Union’s chief rival in Metro Conference action. “I pushed it because we always wanted to work together.”
But, the coach said, “She didn’t get real far with that.”
At least now they’ll be wearing the same colors, blue and gold – though Nevada Union’s blue is of the navy variety – Duwaine said.
“We’ll wear the same colors, but we’ll be driving in very opposite directions going to work,” he said. “And opposite in terms of work environments.
“Changing colors, I think that is odd. I started designing T-shirts for summer camps and getting stationery together and I’m so used to having “Bruins” on stuff. After 16 years, I’m used to opening my closet and seeing a lot of Cardinal and Gray in there.
“Father’s Day is coming up, so maybe my kids will get me some blue and gold. Right now, I don’t have anything to wear.”
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