Providence High’s boys’ basketball program was dealt a big blow when its head coach stepped down.
Michael Westphal, a former collegiate player and son of ex-NBA player and coach Paul Westphal, departed after just one season. Under Westphal, the Pioneers were able turn around their fortunes, winning a league championship and advancing to the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals.
With Westphal moving on to near-by Village Christian, the Providence administration moved quickly to fill the position.
Providence athletic director Andrew Bencze feels the school has found a coach to keep the program moving in the right direction. Brandon Lincoln, a former player at the University of Oregon and an assistant at Division I Montana State the past three seasons, was introduced Wednesday as the Pioneers’ new coach.
“We feel like our program is ready to make a big jump and we didn’t want to lose any momentum in taking too much time to hire a new coach,” Bencze said. “We knew we had some good candidates and we wanted to get the position filled quickly, but we didn’t want to rush things.
“Brandon was the very first person to reach out to us about the coaching job and what he brings to the table is pretty impressive.”
Bencze said Lincoln, who will also be a physical education teacher, showcased not only the coaching aspects, but the propensity to fit in with the Pioneers community.
“We knew basketball-wise he had the right background and he had the right experience, but it’s all about fitting in,” Bencze said. “So, when we brought him on campus, we all realized that not only is this guy a good basketball coach, but he is also the right kind of person to work at Providence. And that really stood out.
“What was great also is, although he was coaching on the college level, he was very into coming back and being part of a high school community. …That was a big thing for him.”
Lincoln, who grew up in the Portland area, didn’t know much about Providence prior to throwing his hat into the ring to be the new boys’ basketball coach.
“I really didn’t know much about the school, but I know people who live in the area and they told me it was a great school and they have a pretty nice setup there, academically and with athletics,” said Lincoln, 33. “Once I got to meet with some of the administrators, they showed that they are very passionate about basketball and they are striving to improve the program.
“Once I kind of evaluated where I was in my former position, I thought this would be a great opportunity for me and a great chance to continue to coach young people.”
A high school McDonald’s All-American nominee at Jefferson High in Oregon, Lincoln went on to play for Oregon and on a Ducks team that played in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. After college, he competed professionally in Germany.
Following his playing days, Lincoln served two stints as an assistant coach at Oregon before moving on to Montana State, where he served as an assistant the past three seasons.
“I have been playing the game since I was about 4 or 5 years old and I have just learned so much from the coaches and the people who have helped me through the years,” said Lincoln, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s in education leadership. “And now I look forward to helping players like I was helped and also to lead a program.
“For me, coaching doesn’t really seem like a job. I get to be around young people and I can hopefully help them become better players and better people, and that’s something I really enjoy.”
Lincoln inherits a Providence program that went 19-9, 10-0 in the Independence League to capture the program’s first title in five years during the 2016-17 campaign. The Pioneers defeated Vistamar (76-62) in the first round of the Division V-AA playoffs before falling in the quarterfinals to Hesperia Christian (70-58).
The year prior, the Pioneers went 9-18, 0-6 and fell in the first round of the playoffs.
The Pioneers have their best player returning in David Grigoryan. Last season as a junior, Grigoryan was an All-Area selection and the Independence League Player of the Year, leading the Pioneers in scoring with 13.7 points-per-game average to go along with 7.6 rebounds.