Derrick Washington had a hard time watching his brother, Sean Dotson, in Coolidge basketball games during the 2016-17 season. The Colts finished with a losing record that year, and Washington wanted to help his alma mater become a D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association contender.
That season, Washington first contacted Coolidge’s athletic director about coaching. In April, when the team had an opening, Washington secured the job.
A year after finishing 9-12, Coolidge is 19-6 (and 11-3 in the DCIAA) in Washington’s initial season and will compete in the D.C. State Athletic Association Class AA tournament this week.
“The kids didn’t think they were going to win when they stepped onto the floor,” said Washington, who graduated from Coolidge in 2009 before playing at Lincoln University (Pa.). “We wanted to let the kids know we were going to win. Once we were able to get through to them that way, that was when we got past the first part of what we wanted to do.”
Coolidge suffered one league loss in Washington’s senior year, but longtime coach Vaughn Jones left in 2016.
With seven Coolidge players returning from last season, Washington created a goal of finishing .500 and reaching the DCIAA semifinals. The Colts surpassed those expectations behind two new players, senior guard Taevon Henderson and freshman forward Stephaun Walker, both DCIAA first-team honorees.
For the first three weeks of practice, Coolidge players hardly touched a basketball as they conditioned for Washington’s up-tempo offense and man-to-man defense.
Washington, 28, knew his squad could compete for a championship after Coolidge’s first DCIAA game against Dunbar on Dec. 10. The Colts came back from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit for a 74-70 win. On Feb. 14, Coolidge defeated Dunbar by a point in the DCIAA playoffs before falling to Wilson in the semifinals.
When Wilson led Coolidge by about 30 points late in their game Feb. 6, Washington turned toward Tigers Coach Angelo Hernandez and said, “I can remember when we were beating Wilson by 30 points my senior year.” In five years, Washington hopes Coolidge can enjoy similar success as the three-time defending DCIAA champion.
“Once I can get there,” Washington said, “the sky’s the limit.”