BY SETH ROMSA TRIBUNE SPORTS WRITER
Courtesy of the Powell Tribune
Northwest College has named Andy Ward as the official coach of the men’s basketball team, after serving this past season as the team’s interim head coach.
“Northwest College is a great place,” Ward said. “I am grateful for the opportunity to continue here.”
Ward was named the interim head coach in August after the unexpected death of coach Jay Collins in late July, with Ward arriving on campus in September.
He took over a team assembled by Collins, stepping back into the head coaching role at Northwest after a decade away from the program serving as an assistant coach at Idaho State and most recently as athletic director at Treasure Valley Community College.
Ward previously served as the head coach for the Trappers from 2007-12, helping lead the Trappers to a 93-61 record over that span.
His return to Northwest was a successful one, finishing with a 20-11 record, a 6-3 record in the Region IX North, earning the No. 2 seed, advancing to the Region IX semifinals before losing to the eventual champions Trinidad State.
“Over the course of the year my entire focus was doing my best for the team and for the school,” Ward said. “I kind of let the chips fall where they may as far as determining what the future looked like. The immediate response was to just do the best we could and bring some stability in the program.”
This year, Ward, alongside the women’s basketball program and members of the community, helped establish the inaugural Coach Collins Heart of a Champion Memorial Classic — honoring the memory of Collins with a weekend of basketball that is set to take place every year the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Ward coached alongside Collins at Idaho State during the 2010s, and established the memorial classic alongside the Jay Collins Memorial Scholarship, which will be awarded to one player on the team each year.
This year’s inaugural recipient was Kolter Merritt, a redshirt freshman from Star Valley, and the returning players from both the men’s and women’s basketball teams were named the first recipients of the Heart of a Champion award.
Ward is planning to keep the memory of his late friend going, continuing to spread his love of basketball.
“Going to try and keep doing things the way he did,” Ward said. “Recruit good student-athletes, guys that want to get an education and compete at a high level. Build and sustain a program that our community and our college can be proud of.”
Ward received help and support throughout the season from NWC Athletic Director Brian Erickson, who helped coach alongside Ward again after being his assistant coach during his first stint at Northwest.
Ward is now out searching for recruits to add to next year’s roster, with the roster taking shape after four players exhausted their eligibility at the junior college level.