Prep Basketball

Former girls' basketball rivals will unite at North Linn

Nate Sanderson will serve as a volunteer assistant for Brian Wheatley next season

Brian Wheatley, who led North Linn to the Class 2A state championship last season, has announced the addition of former
Brian Wheatley, who led North Linn to the Class 2A state championship last season, has announced the addition of former Springville and Linn-Mar coach Nate Sanderson as a volunteer assistant. (The Gazette)

TROY MILLS — As North Linn marched to a girls’ state basketball championship in March, a former rival worked behind the scenes to assist.

“My wife asked exactly what I was doing,” Nate Sanderson said. “I sat in the background and watched a lot of film.

“(Lynx Coach) Brian (Wheatley) asked what I thought, I’d tell him, and then he’d do whatever he wanted.”

And now, Wheatley and Sanderson are about to make their partnership official. Wheatley announced at his team’s banquet Sunday that Sanderson will join the team next season as a volunteer assistant.

“We don’t have another contract, so it’s going to have to be purely voluntary,” Wheatley said. “But I’m excited about this.

“A nice little find, huh?”

Wheatley and Sanderson were Tri-Rivers Conference rivals when the latter was coaching at Springville. Sanderson led the Orioles to Class 1A state titles in 2016 and 2017.

But the magic didn’t follow him to Linn-Mar, where he was 18-39 in 2 1/2 seasons before resigning in January.

At North Linn, Wheatley and assistant Kevin Goedken have constructed a program to be envied. The Lynx have won 20-plus games each of the last 10 seasons, and he is 304-81 in 15 years.

The Lynx capped a 25-2 season in 2019-20 by beating Osage, 66-42, for the Class 2A title, the first in school history.

Four seniors will depart due to graduations, and the team will reload around senior Ellie Ware. The program has a very good freshman class coming in.

Sanderson, who owns a 199-195 record in 18 seasons, applied for a handful of head-coaching jobs after last season, but nothing panned out.

“I just don’t think it was wise for our family to relocate,” he said. “This is a great opportunity, and we’ll see where it goes from here.”

The boys’ program has been led by co-coaches — the son-and-father tandem Mike and Bob Hilmer — the past few seasons (Bob stepped down after the 2020 season).

This won’t be the same.

“I’ll still make all of the final decisions, but I know Nate will bring some good new ideas,” Wheatley said.

“I have no reservations about this. If I did, we wouldn’t do it.”

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