June 19, 2024

Lynnville-Sully basketball: A Family Business

Harthoorns guide Hawks back to state tournament

Harthoorn family

When Kurt Harthoorn stopped coaching girls basketball at Lynnville-Sully, the plan wasn’t really to get back into it.

But when your son comes calling, how can you say no?

That’s what happened 17 years ago when Lynnville-Sully head boys basketball coach Nick Harthoorn took over the Hawks’ program.

Another Harthoorn was added to the coaching staff a few years later, and the L-S program has truly become a family business.

“When I asked my Dad to do it and help out with the JV 17 years ago, I don’t think he ever would have guessed he’d still be hanging around,” Nick Harthoorn said. “Every year I encourage him to stay with it. It’s special to have him and my brother here each day.”

Lynnville-Sully cheerleaders

Nick added his older brother Joel to the staff 14 years ago. The Harthoorn clan has been a part of four state tournament teams. Nick and Kurt coached a fifth team to the state tourney before Joel got on board.

“When Nick got the job in Pella, he applied for the basketball job here and got it,” Kurt Harthoorn said. “Then he needed an assistant. So I decided to do that for a few years. We’ll see how long it lasts. I now have been coaching the boys almost as long as I was with the girls.

Kurt Harthoorn is a 1971 graduate of Lynnville-Sully. He eventually became an English teacher in the district and joined Duane Brand’s girls’ basketball coaching staff.

Brand happened to be Kurt Harthoorn’s uncle and the school’s athletic director.

“He was here longer than I was and passed away this past January,” Kurt Harthoorn said. “He took a team to the state tournament when I was in junior high. I coached with him through the six on six era and left it when it went to five on five.”

He got out of coaching mostly because Joel and Nick moved on to collegiate careers. Joel played baseball at Central College and Nick advanced his basketball career to Northwestern College.

Kurt probably could have been a head coach somewhere. But that was never really anything he attempted. Coaching with his two sons at this point in his life is more than he could have ever asked for.

“You always want to see your kids do well, and I’m glad they have a passion for Lynnville-Sully,” Kurt Harthoorn said. “That’s important. If I can help, I will try.”

Keegan DeWitt

Joel Harthoorn is older than Nick, but he also hasn’t grabbed the itch to become a head coach.

He graduated from Lynnville-Sully in 1997 and was part of four state tournament teams as a player. The Hawks lost in the first round his first two seasons but L-S was third his junior year and second his senior season.

“If Nick was on the team that year, we might have won it because he was a great shooter,” Joel Harthoorn said. “He was a freshmen that season. We had 11 seniors and enough juniors that suits were filled. We didn’t have a spot for him even though he averaged 25 points per game his sophomore year. He was quite capable as a freshman, too.”

Joel is a middle school science teacher at Lynnville-Sully and is in his 14th season with his younger brother. He also has six kids ranging from almost 2 years old to 10 years old.

“Lynnville-Sully is where I want to be and it’s where I want my kids to go to school, too,” Joel Harthoorn said. “It’s nice to be a part of something that’s led the right way. Nick does a phenomenal job. He’s taught me a lot about what it takes to be a head coach and also shows me with all the things he does that maybe I’m not a head coach at this point in time.”

Besides being part of five state tournament teams, the Harthoorns have led the Hawks to nine 20-win seasons and just one losing season in 17 years.

Nick Harthoorn’s resume includes 323 wins, which averages out to 19 wins per year.

“Lynnville-Sully is a special place to me. I never really wanted to coach anywhere else,” Nick Harthoorn said. “This is just home for me. I love coaching. I love coaching at Lynnville-Sully because this place means so much to me.”

Nick Harthoorn graduated from Lynnville-Sully in 2000. He was part of a Hawks’ basketball squad that finished third his senior season. He currently teaches high school math at Pella High School. He and his wife Amy have four kids, including sophomore Kate Harthoorn, who’s a starter on the girls’ varsity team.

Dawson James

The Harthoorns aren’t the only reason Lynnville-Sully basketball can be considered a family business.

Two players on Nick Harthoorn’s current team had mothers who played on the Hawks’ three state championship teams in the late 1990s. They include Carson Maston’s mother Jessica and Hendrick Lowry’s mother Carrie.

Nick Harthoorn’s wife Amy also was on those title teams.

And playing with Joel Harthoorn on the runner-up squad in 1997 were Hendrick Lowry’s father Brian Lowry and Ethan Dunsbergen’s father Matt Dunsbergen, who is the Lynnville-Sully Superintendent.

Current L-S senior Mitchell Miller also had a brother who recently played in the state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena. Karl Miller was part of Pella’s most recent state championship team and gave his younger brother a little advice on what it’s like playing in that arena.

“I haven’t talked to him too much yet, but one thing he did say was when you shoot a corner 3-pointer, the lights reflect off the rim,” Mitchell Miller said. “That’s good to know. I hope to talk to him in the next few days to get any tips and tricks he has from his time there.

“They stop the game for media timeouts. There will be times when that can help you or hurt you. We have to make sure we are aware of that.”

The last time Lynnville-Sully was in the state tournament was the 2017-18 season. The Hawks lost in their opener that season and in 2016-17 and 2010-11.

They won a game there and placed fourth back in 2009-10. That L-S squad posted 27 wins.

Nick Harthoorn’s current Hawks’ team can match that win total if they win all three games at the state tournament next week.

Class 1A No. 7 Lynnville-Sully opens with fifth-ranked Winfield-Mount Union at 12:15 p.m. on Monday inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

A win would send the Hawks to a 1A semifinal game at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The state championship game is slated to tip off at 1 p.m. on Friday.

“You can’t overlook any opponent, but we want to play three games there next week,” L-S senior point guard Corder Noun Harder said. “That’s the mentally we are going in with. We think there’s a lot of even teams in 1A. We think we have a shot to get into that title game.”

Klayton Van Dyke