Prep girls basketball: Hamling steps away for once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

While she didn’t rule out a return to the sidelines, the former Thunderhawks coach couldn’t pass up the chance to watch her daughters play together one final season.

Coach cheers on sidelines.
Grand Rapids head coach Kris Hamling cheers on her team as they battle Superior for a conference championship on Feb. 16 in Superior.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

GRAND RAPIDS — After 27 years and six section titles in the last eight years, Grand Rapids coach Kris Hamling decided to step aside from coaching the Thunderhawks.

Hamling compiled a record of 210 wins and 78 losses over her career at Grand Rapids, but it’s not the grind of the season that’s pulling her away, but a rare opportunity is calling her name.

Grand Rapids girls basketball defeats Superior at home in overtime
Grand Rapids head coach Kris Hamling talks to her team against Superior on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune

Hamling’s older daughter Heaven will be playing her final season at North Dakota State University in Fargo next season and younger daughter Taryn will be a freshman for the Bison next year.

Heaven was named the 2018 News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year and Taryn picked up the award in 2022.

“I’m not sure if I’m really ready to be done,” Hamling, 50, said. “But it’s something I feel I need to do with Heaven being out at NDSU. This is going to be her final year and I have missed so much of her playing in college and that was difficult. Then with Taryn now going to be out there next year, they will get one year to play together. As a mom, I want to watch that — that is really special to me.”


Under Hamling, the Thunderhawks have picked up six section titles and finished third in Class AAA in 2018 — Heaven’s senior year. The past two seasons, Grand Rapids has bowed out in the state quarterfinals, this year with a 71-57 loss to Stewartville.

Assistant Rich Kane has worked on the Grand Rapids staff for eight years with Hamling. He said it was Hamling’s dedication and consistency that stood out to him.

Coach waits for team to break huddle.
Grand Rapids head coach Kris Hamling, right, waits for her team to break their huddle before they battle Superior for a conference championship on Feb. 16 in Superior.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“I give her credit, she’s incredibly dedicated,” Kane said. “Her prep on everything is great. Even at practices, she’s got everything written out like a lesson plan — she’s a teacher, maybe she’s used to that. Then she gets done with the game and she watches game film until midnight just trying to see things and to be better prepared.”

Kane understands the draw of watching your kids play in college. He took a two-year break from coaching to watch his own daughters play basketball. Kenzie Kane played four years at Minnesota Duluth and Taylor Kane spent time at Northern State and Wisconsin-Superior.

“We all get into coaching for the same reason, we get in for our kids initially,” Kane said. “It just grows from there…you get entwined in all of this stuff and if they’re lucky enough to move on to play college ball, you want to be a part of that. Being their parent, being their coach, you know that you’ve trained them all the way through. The draw is that you’re only going to get to see it for so many years and then it’s done.

Coach talks to her team.
Grand Rapids head coach Kris Hamling talks to her team before their game in Superior on Feb. 16.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Hamling said while she is taking a break, that doesn’t mean she won’t be back on the sidelines at some point in the future.

“I’m not completely hanging up my whistle,” Hamling said. “If the opportunity comes back in maybe four or five years, we’ll see where I’m sitting.”

While she won’t be on the sidelines next season, that doesn’t mean she isn’t going to be cheering on the Thunderhawks as often as possible.


“I’ve cherished my time as the coach at Grand Rapids and I will cherish it forever,” Hamling said. “I’ll miss the girls, but I’m still going to go to games, I’m still going to watch them. I’m still going to follow all those ladies that I’ve coached since they were little.”

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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