Braves B-ball coach Woods leaves for Chinle, Arizona, job
July 19, 2023
The grass, they say, is always greener on the other side.
In the case of C.J. Woods, that is even true of the Arizona desert.
Woods, the youthful and personable La Conner High School boys’ head basketball coach and athletics director, has stepped down to assume a similar dual position at Chinle High School, which boasts top-flight sports facilities. The Apache County, Arizona school is the subject of an acclaimed Netflix documentary.
“It’s a really bittersweet feeling,” Woods, 28, who last winter led the underdog Braves to a Northwest 2B Bi-District title and state regional berth, told the Weekly News over the weekend.
“I will miss La Conner so much,” said Woods. “I was given an opportunity to be an athletics director and head boys’ basketball coach here at an early age.
“It’s been such a blessing and opportunity,” he said of his two-year tenure, which grew to include A.D. duties last September.
“Getting an opportunity to work at La Conner was meaningful,” Woods said. “It was always a place I said I’d apply for if it opened, and it worked out.”
A graduate of Friday Harbor High School, where he was a hoops standout, Woods played basketball at Peninsula College prior to attending the University of Jamestown in North Dakota and the University of Idaho.
At Idaho, Woods, whose father, Fred, is a member of the Wyoming Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach, began working with the women’s basketball program.
Coaching, after all, is in his DNA. So, too, is a willingness to tackle new professional challenges – evidenced by taking the athletics director post.
Woods said Chinle High School, located in the heart of the Navajo Nation, has recently updated its main academic building, gymnasium, ballfields and aquatic center.
“The facilities are stunning,” said Woods, adding that “the respect towards the school and activities is incredible. Everyone in Chinle really holds the school with a high degree of respect.”
Chinle High basketball is revered in Navajo Country and is noted for its up-tempo, run-and-gun style. The Netflix film chronicling the school is aptly titled “Basketball or Nothing.”
With a population approaching 5,000, Chinle is near the famed Canyon de Chelly in northeast Arizona, about 300 miles from Phoenix.
“Everyone I’ve gotten an opportunity to work with has been so respectful and helpful in Chinle,” Woods said. “It’s exciting to get to experience life in Chinle as well as an opportunity to continue as a full-time athletics director and coach some hoops for the Wildcats.”
Another factor drawing Woods to Chinle is a cost of living much lower than that in the Pacific Northwest. The school offers staff housing, he said.
Still, leaving here won’t be easy, Woods insisted.
“There have been so many instrumental people here,” he said, “who have supported and cared for me during this time.”
Woods will especially miss the players.
“We’ve put together a couple really big off-seasons and this off-season the La Conner boys are playing good basketball,” said Woods. “It’s a special group this upcoming year.”
A dramatic 63-61 comeback win over favored Coupeville on the Wolves’ floor in the bi-district championship round was the team’s high point.