Legendary coach Craig Strohm to be inducted into Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame
Editor’s note: This is the fifth installment of a 17-part series chronicling the 2018 Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame inductees. Check back to The Union sports pages each day for a new profile on a Nevada Union legend.
He was loud, intense and unconventional. He was also passionate, engaging and inspiring.
That was just Craig Strohm’s style. And, his style worked.
The highly successful and often vocal coach transformed the Nevada Union girls basketball program into a perennial power that struck fear into opposing teams and garnered a plethora of championship banners along the way.
For his efforts as a coach and mentor, he will be inducted into the Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame April 28.
“The whole energy around it was very positive,” Strohm said. “I was blessed with players that wanted to compete and they saw that hard work, discipline and conditioning led to success, wins and recognition.
“For me it was about teaching kids that if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to your work and apply yourself, you’re going to be successful in sports, academics and life.”
During Strohm’s 20-plus years coaching basketball at Nevada Union he tallied more than 500 wins, claimed 11 league titles, won five section championships (1989, 1990, 1991, 1995, 1999), was named the Sacramento Bee Girls Basketball Coach of the Year in 1990 and was named the Gatorade California Basketball Coach of the Year in 1991. From 1988-2000 Strohm-led teams reached 10 section championship games.
The keys to all that success: talented players and an old school approach to coaching those talented players, said Strohm.
“I’m old school and I played for tough coaches growing up,” Strohm said. “I grew up 30 miles away from Green Bay, Wisconsin, so we all worshiped at the alter of Vince Lombardi. So, I was coached old school and that’s the way I was raised. It was all about discipline, conditioning, toughness.
“The key to success was always hard work. There was no shortcuts. And, that’s the philosophy and attitude that I brought to coaching.”
Strohm wasn’t always a basketball coach, though. In fact coaching girls basketball wasn’t something that even crossed his mind until he was offered the girls junior varsity head coaching job in the early 80s. He was a football guy then. A second-team all-State running back in Wisconsin his senior year of high school.
After graduating college in 1973, Strohm made his way to Grass Valley where he got a job teaching at Nevada Union and took on the role of assistant coach with the football team.
It wasn’t until 1983 that Strohm first got into coaching girls basketball, doing so for the stipend he would get for coaching the JV team, figuring it would be enough to cover the cost of a new set of golf clubs.
“That is the truth,” he said. “That’s how crazy my story is.”
Strohm took over the varsity program in the mid 80s, but needed to step away for a couple years, citing personal reasons. When he returned in 1989 he was coupled with a strong group of players headed by fellow Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame inductee Kellie Cook.
“We started winning and having a lot of fun,” Strohm said. “At that point I really dug in as a basketball coach. For the next 20 years it became my life.”
Strohm threw himself into the job, picking the brains of fellow coaches and traveling to clinics all over the West Coast.
“I just went after it,” he said. “I became an absolute junkie.”
The game was also changing at the time, and Strohm was determined to stay ahead of the curve. When he first started coaching girls basketball, there wasn’t a shot clock or a 3-point line, but as those elements were added, he developed a game plan that would utilize those new rules to his team’s advantage.
“I realized that we were going to develop our own way to play,” he said. “We were going to take over the West Gym, which was 10-feet shorter than a regular gym size and we were going to run and we were going to gun and we were going to press.”
His team’s also shot the 3-ball. Lots of them. In 1998, Strohm’s team set a national record for made 3-pointers.
“We were run and gun,” he said. “That was our style of play. I loved to play that way, the kids loved to play that way and we really adopted that as our style. The West Gym became the House of Pain. The signs went up, we put a stereo system in there, put in a press box, painted it and made it our home. It just took off from there.”
Lady Miners basketball games went from a few dozen people in the stands to standing room only.
Cook, who won three section titles with Strohm, said he was both dedicated and inspiring.
“Coach (Strohm) was truly a special coach and a master motivator,” Cook said. “His teams played their hearts out for him, and his inspiring pre-game and halftime speeches are legendary.”
After all the wins, league titles and section championships, Strohm couldn’t tell you his favorite memory. There are simply too many to try and rank them.
“It could be jumping around the locker room after a win or a championship, getting our picture taken with the banner or going down the street in a parade,” Strohm said. “All those are great memories. Too many to really focus on one. But when I looked in their eyes and saw the joy on their faces, That’s what mattered to me.”
After retiring from coaching girls basketball, Strohm didn’t stray too far from the court, helping coach his son’s teams as he made his way through the local youth basketball leagues.
Strohm still lives locally with his wife Diana, and is a published author with three novels to his credit, including “Comeback,” “Paybacks” and “The Shaman’s Gift.”
Strohm said he is enjoying retirement. Most days he can be found on the golf course.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email@example.com.
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