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Mitchell's Olson eyes pioneering role as woman coaching boys' basketball

Erin Olson, at right, talks with Mitchell girls' varsity coach Wes Morgan during a January game against Sioux Falls Washington in Sioux Falls. Pending school board approval Monday night, Olson will become the school's sophomore boys' coach, possibly the first woman to coach boys' basketball in school history.

The Mitchell High School boys’ basketball coaching staff could soon include a woman for the first time.

Pending school board approval Monday night, former MHS girls’ basketball standout Erin Olson will take over the sophomore varsity boys’ basketball team this upcoming season.

“I’m not naive to the fact she could be the only female on a boys staff in the state,” first-year Mitchell boys’ coach Erik Skoglund said. “But that doesn’t hide the fact that she’s a great coach with great character, unmatched work ethic and the professionalism to continue to learn the game. She’s going to work great with the whole staff.”

Skoglund said he and Olson have worked together at his annual Hansen-Anderson Summer basketball camp in years past. He added Olson is “looking for a new challenge” and wants to coach boys’ basketball.

Olson — an assistant for the girls’ varsity team two of the past three years — played for the Kernels from 1991 to 1994, helping Mitchell to two state championships. She went on to play Division I basketball at the University of Wyoming and eventually transferred to Minnesota.

After her college career, she played professionally overseas and returned to South Dakota to coach collegiately and is now a teacher in the Mitchell School District.

News of her possible switch to the boys’ staff is on the agenda for Monday evening’s Mitchell Board of Education meeting. The Daily Republic could not reach Olson for an interview Friday.

Longtime Mitchell boys’ basketball coach Gary Munsen coached the girls’ program for 11 years and coached Olson as a player. He believes Olson will be the first woman coaching in Class AA boys’ basketball in South Dakota high school history.

Wes Morgan, head Mitchell girls’ varsity coach, said Olson teaches strong fundamentals and will be a good coach for younger players. Both of the years Olson was on the Kernel girls’ bench, the team made it to the state tournament, taking seventh in 2011 and runner-up in 2013.

“She wants to help get the boys’ program running again,” Morgan said. “She knows her stuff. Female or male, it doesn’t make any difference.”

Olson’s departure leaves a vacancy for the Mitchell girls’ basketball team. Mitchell Activities Director Geoff Gross said the school is now searching for an assistant girls’ basketball coach at the high school level.

Gross expects Olson to do a good job coaching the sophomore boys this fall.

“She has experience in basketball at many levels and she’s done a very nice a job for us at Mitchell High,” Gross said.

Olson’s transfer from being an assistant girls’ varsity basketball coach to the sophomore boys’ basketball coach is listed under the personnel section of the Mitchell Board of Education’s consent agenda for Monday night. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at the Mitchell Senior High library.