Bingham to coach at Seattle U. (Basketball)

April 29, 2011
Coach Dorena Bingham

When it comes to getting Alaska high school basketball players to the next level, no other coach has had a greater impact than Dorena Bingham of Anchorage.

She has helped more than 100 girls go on to play in college over the last two decades through her elite travel team as well as her time at East High School.

Now she’s on her way.

Bingham, 47, was hired today as an assistant coach at her alma mater of Seattle University, a NCAA D1 school where she will work for head coach Joan Bonvicini and reunite with senior guard Talisa Rhea of Juneau.

“It’s where I’m supposed to be,” Bingham told me.

Bingham coached Rhea on her travel team, helping the former Alaska player of the year land at Oregon State University. But Rhea transferred to Seattle U. for her senior season that will now include another Alaskan.

“It’s crazy. You should have seen her face when I walked into the locker room. It was priceless,” Bingham said. “She’s a pretty quiet kid; she just looked at me like, ‘what?’ Then she gave me the biggest hug. It was pretty funny.”

At East High, Bingham developed top Alaska players such as Laura Ingham, Azella Perryman, Natalie Jones and Ashley Mickens in addition to winning 280 games and three state titles in 14 seasons.

But her true passion was her travel team.

“I’ve been doing that for 20 years. That’s been valuable time,” she said. “That’s probably the saddest part of the whole thing outside of not teaching.”

Bingham has been a teacher in the Anchorage School District for 26 years, spending 11 at Huffman Elementary School and the last 15 at Wendler Middle School.

“I love my teaching job and the people that work there,” she said. “But I’m going to be teaching in a different way.”

She brings a wealth of coaching experience, including stints with the U.S. Junior National Team and McDonald’s All-American Game.

Now she’s working at the highest level of college basketball with a respected friend in Bonvicini.

“She’s a great coach. She was Natalie’s coach. She is fantastic. She’s hard-nosed. She’s just what I am, really,” Bingham said.

“Her assistant coaches Joy and Kristen … I watched them play against each other. Joy played for Coach B. at Arizona and Kristen played for Washington and they recruited Azella and they played against Azella and Natalie. It’s weird because I like know everybody involved.”

After graduating from Seattle U. in 1985, her career has come full circle.

“This is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is where I’m supposed to be. It’s exactly who I am. It’s exactly what I spent all that time for. It’s exactly why. It is rewarding for me to get this chance. I don’t know even know what else to say.”