When the Chugiak Mustangs made a head coaching change in 2019, school officials wanted to keep it in-house and hired first-year assistant Josi Schultz.
It was just like any other coaching hire.
Except it wasn’t.
Schultz became the first woman to be named head coach of a boys basketball team in the state’s most prominent league since the Cook Inlet Conference began playing in the 1970s.
“It was never my intention to make a big splash, but it just kind of happened,” said Chugiak assistant principal Ben Johrendt. “I didn’t even really think about that part until after it was all said and done. Later on, it hit me, ‘We just did something that’s kind of a big deal.’”
Women coaching boys basketball isn’t new to Alaska.
In 2001, Amy Rakers led Kodiak to the 4A state championship. In 2018, Bri Kirk guided Noatak to the 1A state title.
But it’s never happened in the state’s largest city until now. Just call Schultz the Becky Hammon of the CIC.
“It’s a great honor to even be mentioned in that kind of company,” she said. “Hopefully there are many more after.”
Schultz has previous high school and Arctic Winter Games coaching experience and she played college basketball at NCAA D3 Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
The Chugiak players, parents and community have welcomed their new boys coach with open arms.
“The guys have been really respectful and parents have been really nice and made me feel comfortable,” she said. “Like any coach, like any player, I would expect them to be skeptical. I have had to prove myself. I don’t think that’s just a male or a female thing.”
High school varsity coaches are regularly scrutinized and Schultz realizes her decisions will likely be dissected even more because she’s a woman.
She would rather people judge her game, not her gender.
“I try not to make a big deal out of many things, but I definitely think in our society there are still people who don’t think that women should be in these positions,” Schultz said.
“We are farther than we were 10 years ago, 5 years ago, but we’re still having firsts. I think it’s a positive thing. I hope one day it’s not even a topic of discussion.”