Hemingway Huynh said his message at North Salem is 'don't be a victim of your circumstance.' (Photo by Cristal Bravo Mota)
Hemingway Huynh said his message at North Salem is "don't be a victim of your circumstance." (Photo by Cristal Bravo Mota)

As a North Salem freshman in the early 1990s, Hemingway Huynh was proud to earn a spot on the boys basketball team.

His parents – Vietnamese immigrants – had a different view, however.

“First summer league game, they were like, 'What are you doing?'” Huynh said. “'We have two jobs. We've got to work. We have to pay rent. You're never playing basketball.' I was like, 'Yeah, I get it.'”

Huynh's basketball career never got off the ground, but three decades later, he has come full circle as the new coach at North Salem, replacing Bryan Huber.

In his professional life, Huynh is a model of success. He graduated from the University of Portland and earned a master's degree from Ohio State. He became an inventor and made his mark in the tech industry by founding Prolifiq Software.

Two years ago, he moved back to Oregon from New Jersey and got involved in the local basketball scene, making it his mission to serve marginalized communities. Huynh began coaching with The Pac Salem, a nonprofit athletic training organization that has become one of the state's largest basketball clubs. He became an assistant at North Salem, where his son, Maverick, will be a senior this year.

Now Huynh is ready to take the reins at North Salem, right down the street from his parents' house.

“I've been in the community a long time,” he said. “People are excited because they know how much we're going to engage the community. We're going to go to every event, as much as we can.”

The Vikings have struggled on the court of late, going 8-16 and 2-23 the last two seasons, and will carry a 23-game losing streak into next season. They are 0-24 in the 6A Central Valley Conference since moving back from 5A in 2022-23.

Huynh expects the team to improve next season – “I know we're going to be better, just by summer league and what we've done,” he said – but he is intent on stressing to his players what they can achieve off the court. He sees it as an opportunity to impart his wisdom to athletes, many of whom are in difficult living situations.

“I'm like, 'Don't make that an excuse, don't be a victim of your circumstance,'” Huynh said. “'I came from the same area. I grew up poor, worked all the way through college. I know how it feels to be hopeless. But if you work hard enough and you care about each other, you will go far. Just have that self-determination.'”

Huynh has made an impact at The Pac, which has a 12,000-square foot facility in Salem. The Pac has 40 boys and girls teams in the fall and spring, primarily based in Salem, Albany, Silverton and Woodburn but attracting athletes from as far away as Southwest Washington and Roseburg.

Players can join The Pac for $300, but about half of them are on scholarships.

“Most kids don't pay more than $50,” Huynh said. “It's always been our mission to teach. We require them to sign a contract about academics, behavior and mental health, too.

“It's just all about development. It's not about winning or losing. We focus on the 99 percent. We don't recruit top kids. If they come out, great. But we teach lessons of life, working hard.”

Coaching at North Salem has given Huynh a front row seat to the career of Maverick, a guard who has received all-league honors the last two years. Huynh joked that Maverick is a “miracle baby” in that he has sprouted to 5-10, four inches past his father.

“He's a kid that didn't play until the sixth grade,” Huynh said. “He grew a little bit. He was always cut or on the B team until freshman year. He put in the skills. He just works at it.”

Titans go with Sanderson

Former Central and McKay coach Dean Sanderson is the new coach at West Salem.

Sanderson, who went a combined 93-169 in three seasons at Central (2020-23) and eight seasons at McKay (2011-19), assisted with the Titans last season under Travis Myers.

Myers resigned from the position after leading West Salem to a 20-6 record and into the second round of the 6A playoffs. In eight seasons, Myers went 134-64.

"I think it's time for a change in, kind of, my direction in the basketball world," Myers told the Statesman Journal. "I think it's time for a different challenge — and maybe a new voice for West Salem."

Myers is open to continue coaching, he told the Statesman Journal.

"If there's an opportunity that works for me and works for my family – where I feel like I can positively impact a program and some kids, yeah, I'll definitely go compete for one," Myers said. "But it's gotta be one that I feel is gonna work."

Ioane to South Salem

South Salem has hired former Willamette University coach Kip Ioane to fill its boys coaching vacancy.

Ioane was Willamette's head coach for 14 seasons (2009-23), compiling a record of 85-243. He played at Willamette and assisted there for eight seasons before becoming the Bearcats' coach.

Ioane succeeds Travis Brown, the team's coach for the past five seasons. South Salem finished 23-3 in Brown's first year but went 33-55 in the last four seasons, including 9-15 in 2023-24.

Carpenter switches at Willamette

Chad Carpenter, Willamette's boys coach for the last 11 seasons, is now the girls coach at the school.

Carpenter fills the spot vacated by Danielle McBride, who resigned after going 111-87 in eight seasons. The Wolverines are 68-19 in the last three seasons, including 21-9 last season, when they made the 6A semifinals behind a deep junior class.

Carpenter went 114-147 during his tenure with the boys team, going 3-22 last season. Assistant Jake O'Connor will replace him.