Helena’s Chris Laatsch headed to Spain Park
Published 7:15 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2018
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor
HOOVER – After serving as head basketball coach of the Helena Huskies for the past four years, including a 30-3 record during the 2017-18 season, Chris Laatsch is headed to Spain Park High School to become the Jaguars’ new head coach after the decision was approved at a Hoover City Schools board meeting on Tuesday, May 8.
Laatsch, who was beaming with a smile talking about the move, grew up in the Hoover area where he first realized his love for the game of basketball in his driveway as a young boy before realizing he wanted to be a coach by the time he was in sixth grade.
Now, 17 years after seeing Spain Park be built and realizing a dream of possibly coaching there one day, Laatsch is back in his hometown as a head basketball coach fulfilling one of his lifelong dreams.
“It’s a little bit surreal,” Laatsch said. “I’m humbled and honored that they would entrust this program to me.”
Laatsch is coming off his most successful season as a head coach leading Helena to a 30-3 overall record and the school’s first berth in the Sweet 16 of the AHSAA basketball playoffs, which made the decision an easy one for Athletic Director Patrick Kellogg.
It was a decision that had to be made and an opportunity that became available when former Spain Park head coach Donnie Quinn decided to retire at the end of the 2017-18 basketball season.
Now, Laatsch will get the opportunity to make his third stop in Shelby County having coached at both Briarwood and Helena for a combined 20 years.
While Spain Park has had success in recent years with two trips to the Final Four since 2007, a lot of that success came with stars on the floor such as Josh Magette, who spent a chunk of last season in the NBA, as well as Austin Wiley and Jamal Johnson, current Division I college basketball players.
That 2007 team was one that was familiar to Laatsch, who was at Briarwood during that time, and brought his Lions up to Spain Park on several occasions to compete against former Jaguars’ head coach Brian Moon. It’s the kind of program Moon ran that has Laatsch so excited for the possibilities at Spain Park.
“Brian Moon is a great friend of mine,” Laatsch said. “To watch him and learn from him and bring my teams up here to compete in this gym and now get a chance to coach in it and be a part of this school system is a little overwhelming to be honest.”
While the program has had several years of success in the last 10 years, the last few years it became a team that relied on naturally gifted players that have now departed for incredible collegiate careers, which left a team needing to work hard and play as a team.
At times during the 2017-18 season, the Jaguars accomplished that task, but for the most part it lagged.
Laatsch, however, has shown at Helena the accountability by which he holds his players to not only make them work hard for one another on the court creating a family type atmosphere, but also help them grow as young men.
“We’re going to work hard and try to put a great product on the floor,” Laatsch said. “But more importantly, we’re going to try to have a program that develops character in men. Teaching them to have great attitude and effort in everything they do is going to be the foundation of our program.
“I want this team to find a way to give up themselves to be a part of something bigger. That’s going to be our message, and the sooner we buy into that together, me being loyal to them and them being loyal to me, the quicker great things will be accomplished.”
Laatsch, who has been up for coach of the year in the county for the last two years before winning the award this past season, has the track record to turn the Jags from a sub-500 team back into a Final Four contender, and it’s something they need competing in a difficult area with Mountain Brook and Huffman.
While the challenges of the job are exciting and his standards are high with the amount of pressure he puts on himself, Laatsch couldn’t be more excited to lead this team.
With that said, a piece of his heart will still be left in Helena with a school that gave him so much over the last four years.
“It’s tough to leave Helena,” Laatsch said. “That community was so special and is so special to me and my family. They welcomed us, supported us and loved us, so it’s really tough to leave.”
While it was a difficult decision for Laatsch, the calling of home was just too much to ignore.
“This just felt right,” Laatsch said emphatically. “I’m coming home to Hoover. This is a great school system, a great city, a great community and a great athletic program. I just think it’s one of the top places in the state, and when they give you that opportunity, it’s just something you have to take.”