North Sevier High School’s girls basketball coach Lexa Larsen earned her 400th coaching victory last week as the team overpowered the Gunnison Bulldogs 50-36. She earned her 401st win Thursday night as her team beat the Millard Eagles.
Larsen grew up in Richfield and at that time there were no opportunities for her to play basketball as a girl. Her father would not let her play on boys’ teams, and there were no girls teams. The first game she played was in a JV game against Piute in her freshman year at Richfield High School. She had never had her own uniform, and she remembers being so nervous. It was her first game EVER, and they won 72-4. A few games into her freshman year she became a varsity starter and the team played in the state tournament. It only went up from there for her as her teams placed in state championships and she individually won numerous awards.
After her successful high school career she was recruited by Southern Utah University where she was a phenomenal success on and off the court and was well loved by teammates and coaches. She’d always wanted to play for the University of Utah and was allowed to transfer there. She was required by D1 rules to sit out a year, which she did, but continually practiced and her dedication was commendable. She suffered a serious knee injury her senior year in the tip off of her first game and though she rehabbed quickly, her season wasn’t all she’d hoped it would be but she says she is grateful for her time there and the things she learned from her coaching staff.
“Elaine was probably the first coach I ever had that actually broke down skills for me, and that helped me a ton when I became a coach. I also learned how to lift weights. We watched game film, had extensive scouting reports, and sometimes met with a nutritionist or psychologist. I spent the next 10 summers coaching and officiating camps at the U. My world expanded and I met all kinds of people that influenced me in one way or another. I know I was supposed to be a Ute!” she said.
She began teaching at North Sevier High School in August 1992 and coached with Utah Avalanche teams during the summers of her coaching career and practiced against her players for many years.
Eight years after her college graduation she tried out to play for the Utah WNBA team, Utah Stars, but the team only had one roster spot. She still believes she could play at that level but she knows her life would be completely different now if she had.
“I can’t believe I have been coaching for 30 years now,” she said. “The
time has flown by. I have had the privilege of coaching so many incredible young women. Each leaves her mark on my heart. I could tell stories for days about all the inspiring moments I’ve witnessed and all the lessons I’ve
learned. I’ve truly been blessed to have amazing assistant coaches that know a lot more than me and are just as passionate about the game. We’ve been fortunate enough to win 3 state championships and this season I amassed
my 400th career win in a blowout victory. But what I am most proud of is my girls, all 30 teams of them. “They fight to win in every game” no matter the score. They always play with heart, determination, and class. Basketball is the longest season plus it spans 5 school holidays, so they understand the meaning of sacrifice and dedication. They are leaders on and off the court. They put the team before themselves and they stand strong together. They
are not afraid of hard work. They persevere and are ready to tackle any challenge. They are all amazing and inspiring and I will love each one of them FOREVER. I don’t know how many more seasons I will coach, but I know it will be one of the hardest things I ever do to walk away from this
program which has become my family. Thank you, North Sevier HS, for giving me such an incredible opportunity.”
Her former players and assistant coaches have learned a great deal from her as well.
Dixon Dahlsrud, her current assistant coach said, “The thing that makes Lexa Larsen special isn’t the 400 wins. It isn’t the 30 seasons. It isn’t the 7 championship games or the 3 state championships. It isn’t even that she has been with one team the entire time. The thing that makes Lexa Larsen special is the way she cares about her players. My favorite example is when we had a senior, Brook Roper, who hurt her knee and needed surgery. Brook was my neighbor and I thought I would take her a treat to cheer her up. I went to Brook’s house and Lexa was already there. She cares. Then on our last game at state that year she told Brook to wear her uniform one last time with her teammates. Brook had no idea, but Lexa had more than that planned. She let Brook start her final game at the state tournament. It will always stick with me how much she cares about her players.”
Former assistant coach Kendall Cowley, a long time friend and her high school assistant coach said his basketball relationship with Lexa Larsen started in 1985 when she was a sophomore at Richfield High school and he was an Assistant Coach.
“Lexa led our team to the first state championship in school history for girl’s basketball. Now fast forward ahead to 2006. After 24 years of coaching at RHS, I was going to retire since my son, our youngest, was graduating,” he said. “The fall of 2006 I was at a North Sevier vs Richfield Volleyball match and Lexa engaged me in a conversation, which lead to her asking me if I would consider coming to her practices a couple days a week to work with her Post Players, which I gladly accepted. Then that lead to daily practices. Ten seasons later, in the spring of 2017, after never missing a practice, I did retire after our State Championship win over Emery. Coaching ten years with Lexa was the best and really easiest decision I have made in my years of coaching high school athletes. First of all, Lexa is a very good teacher; she is also an excellent Coach. She also loves being a continual student of the game. She really loves the girls she coaches and understands the life lessons that are learned in her program are what are of most importance for the girls. One of the things that has made her so successful as a coach is her flexibility. She is willing to adapt and adjust strategies to help her players have the best chance to win. As an assistant to her, she would pick my brain and seek my input to help her with her coaching decisions. The final call was always hers, but she would rarely take credit for that, always trying to deflect the success back to her players and assistants. Lexa above all is a very good person! She is a rare individual in the coaching ranks, and 30 years of teaching and coaching girl’s basketball at the same school is nothing short of amazing. You can count the number of coaches that have achieved this in the State of Utah on one hand. I know I speak for all her former assistants and players when I say we are all better people because Lexa blessed our lives! One of the greatest things I think can be said about a person is that they make those around them better, as a player, coach, teacher, and friend. Lexa has done that consistently in her life. Thanks for everything, we love and appreciate you.”
Not many people can say they have the privilege of coaching with the coach who coached them, but Kylie Burgess can. “ I have learned so many things from Coach Larsen over the years there is probably not a big enough column to cover it all,” she said. “When I was a player I was very determined and probably a little difficult. Like most teenagers I thought I knew everything. This didn’t stop her from pushing me to be my very best, not only as an athlete but as a student too. She always sets the bar high for her athletes. For as long as I’ve known her all of her girls just know you are respectful, you are kind, you work hard, you leave things better than you found them, and once you are a part of this program you are family for life. We recently went to a coaching clinic that told us to have the players write on a card what they think it means to be in our program. If you get enough of the same answer you know you have created a culture. When we tried this with our players it became very apparent that the Culture of this program is very strong. When I first started coaching with Lexa I asked her how do you know how to pick a good coaching staff? Her answer was simple and perfect. She told me, “I pick people who have different personalities and attributes than I possess that way all the needs of my team are met.” I will never forget in that moment that I realized how much she loves her North Sevier basketball family. How over the years she has carefully picked each staff member to make sure the needs of her players are taken care of. I have seen her take care of these girls on and off the court when no one knows it was her, and she’d never ask for credit for doing so. The more I coach with her the more I realize how much she loves each and every player, and how hard it is when they move on. Coach Larsen has truly created a family over the last 30 years. An amazing bond of North Sevier basketball players. I am so proud to be a part of her legacy, and so thankful that she has let me be a part of it.”
Lexa is the daughter of Lyle and Joann Larsen of Richfield Utah. She has one sister, and three brothers. She has 17 nieces and nephews. She calls herself the black sheep of the family because she is the only one that does not work with the family business (Larsen’s ACE Hardware). She is an incredible family member. Each year she takes one of her siblings and their family on a family vacation of their choice. This is something she loves to do. They call it Lexacation.
She enjoys traveling the globe, backpacking, basketball, boating, snowboarding, softball, biking, and completing lists. She also enjoys photography and collecting basketball cards and stamps from National Parks. She loves attending the women’s and men’s college tournaments. She has been to 3 women’s final four tournaments and is proud to say she has never had to watch UCONN win a National Championship!!
Next up on her list is to attend all NBA Arenas, and watch the Utah Jazz play there if possible, and hit her last three continents: Asia, South America, and Antarctica. She has a 403-287 overall winning record and is the female coach with the most wins in the history of Utah. She’s the 6th all time winning leader in Utah, at one school and overall, and is currently in her 30th year of teaching and coaching.
“ I don’t know if I will coach enough years to hit 500, but it has certainly been fun,” said Coach Larsen.