Jamie Sobolik’s ambition, early in his teaching/coaching career, was to be a head coach. Then he became a dad, and that goal wasn’t so important any more.
But Sobolik got back into coaching basketball three years ago, and when a plumb head coach job opened up recently at Centennial High School, he grabbed it.
Sobolik, 37, was named May 9 to take over the Cougar girls basketball program, one of the strongest in the metro area. He applied after hashing it over with Jill Becken, who had retired for the second time and was recommending him to succeed her.
“I started to have those aspirations that I had 15 years prior,” said Sobolik.
Becken had 281 wins and five state trips over 12 seasons in two separate stints. Sobolik assisted her the last three seasons and also for three years during her first tenure as coach. He was chosen by Brian Hegseth, the last hire by the longtime activities director before he retired.
The new coach knows Cougar hoops has high standards.
“I’m excited to lead this great program,” he said. “I would be lying if I told you I’m not nervous. The three previous coaches of this program have created large shoes to fill.”
He referred to Dennis Hutter, the first Cougar coach to hire him as an assistant, now coaching at Mayville (N.D.) State with a 116-52 record; Becken, who is “the winningest coach at Centennial and I believe will end up in the Minnesota Coaches Hall of Fame;” and Greg Amundson, a North Dakota coaches Hall of Famer who had the job for five years between Becken’s two tenures.
“So I do feel some pressure, but I also know that I’m trying to be the best coach I can be, and can’t be worried about the comparisons,” said Sobolik, who left coaching after his daughter was born in 2006 and stayed out for 10 years except for some AAU ball.
“He’s excited to lead this great group of girls and I’m excited for him,” Becken said. “I think he’ll do a nice job, as he has great ideas, he’s got a lot of experience, and most importantly he cares about the players as people first.”
Centennial was 51-9 the last two years and placed third in the state this past March. Two starters return: guards Jodi Anderson and Grace Johnson.
“I think this is a great time to take over the program and give it my own twist,” Sobolik said. “The younger players have just been waiting behind those seniors for their opportunity. Our JV teams have gone 75-3 over the past three seasons, so the cupboard is not empty.”
Sobolik, a Centennial faculty member since 1998, is the district’s testing coordinator and Pines School’s technology and assessment coordinator. He taught business education until 2013.
At Mandan (N.D.) High School, he was in football and basketball, along with Legion baseball. He played second base for Mandan’s state Legion championship team. His coaching credits also include softball assistant at University of North Dakota and at Centennial.
Sololik said he been telling his returning players that they, like himself, can’t be worried about comparisons. They will be stepping into roles vacated by graduations of luminaries like Division I recruits Taylor McAulay and Sara Stapleton this year, and Sydney Stapleton and Claire Orth last year.
His message to them: “We’re not asking you to be the next McAulay or Stapleton. We just want you to be the best you.”