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CEDAR RAPIDS — A 2-year-old Chris James tried to storm the court at Veterans Auditorium, without success.
“The 1988 team had just won the state championship, and I remember one of the guards wouldn’t let me on the court,” James said Tuesday. “Finally, my dad came over and told them it was OK.”
And now, a new James Gang is about to ride at Cedar Rapids Washington.
A new generation.
James was announced as the school’s new varsity girls’ basketball coach, pending board approval.
A 2004 Washington graduate, James is the son of Paul James, who assembled a record of 343-209 at Washington from 1979 to 2003, winning that state title in 1988, then another in 1995.
“It’s a feeling of excitement and anticipation, but another feeling of a little stress,” Chris said. “It’s time I’ve got to put up.”
James, 30, succeeds Frank Howell, who resigned this summer a successful 13-year run. Howell has been hired as the women’s coach at Graceland University in Lamoni.
“I am excited to learn that Chris James will be my successor,” Howell said in a statement. “He is emotionally invested in (Washington girls’) basketball. He literally grew up in the culture of the program when his dad was the head coach and has done a tremendous job as an assistant for me in recent years. I know he holds in very high regard the history and importance of this program. He believes in the potential of the current members of the team as well as the younger players that have not yet entered high school.”
James has served as coach at the freshman and sophomore level at Washington for seven years. He will continue as co-head coach of the boys’ golf team. He is a third-grade teacher in the Linn-Mar district.
“I feel I have a unique background,” he said. “I’ve traveled around the country with my dad, going to camps. The tradition here is so rich with my dad, and what Frank has done has been fantastic.”
Washington was 15-8 last winter, its 13th consecutive winning season. The Warriors return 49.7 percent of their scoring for 2016-17, led by juniors-to-be Jayla Johnson (9.4 ppg) and Vanessa Eniola (7.6 ppg) and senior-to-be Jessi Puk (6.2 ppg).
James is married — his wife Laura is a counselor at Iowa City Regina. The couple has no kids.
He said he “has talked with” his father about being part of his staff, most likely as a volunteer assistant.
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