Christian Subdon has spent his six years as a JV coach absorbing everything, treating it like a head-coaching apprenticeship. Now he can put that effort into practice.
Subdon was announced Friday morning as the new Whitehall head boys basketball coach, replacing his friend and former coach Nate Aardema, who took the Reeths-Puffer job Monday.
The speed with which Whitehall hired Subdon reflected its confidence in him and the work he’s done assisting Aardema the past three years; Subdon coached JV at Hart the three seasons before that. The job was only posted internally at Whitehall schools, and not externally, because Subdon was always the guy.
“We kind of have a history at Whitehall of, the process starts years in advance,” athletic director Greg Russell said. “(It’s a history of) getting people in position to grow as leaders and coaches. Christian is someone I’ve targeted as a head coach, whether it’s basketball or something else. He and his wife (Sarah) are Whitehall grads, they live in Whitehall, they’re building a house and raising a family in Whitehall. It was truthfully his job to lose.”
The quick hire also reflects how important June is to a basketball program. Subdon said his team will play close to 30 scrimmage games in the month, between camps at Hope College and tournaments at Fruitport and Muskegon, among other things.
“It’s a ton of team bonding, and they didn’t get that last year,” Subdon said. “I’m excited they get to do that.”
Subdon said that throughout the process of Aardema getting the R-P job, the two of them and the rest of the Viking staff continued with business as normal. The understanding was that Subdon would pursue the Whitehall job if it opened, but Aardema’s departure was still bittersweet given the close relationship between the two.
“I loved coaching with Nate,” Subdon said. “He was my coach and I learned a lot from him. It opened up a great opportunity for me and I’m beyond excited. I’m a Whitehall guy. I played here, teach here and coach here, and it’s surreal to think it’s actually here.”
Aardema himself certainly was pleased to see his protege promoted. He Tweeted Friday, “I’m excited for (Subdon). He will do great things and advocate for all Whitehall athletes.”
Subdon said that over the past few days, he’d been assuming head coach duties, not because he assumed the job was his but because he wanted the players to have a smooth transition to whoever that coach would be.
That focus on the kids, which was a similar quality to what made Aardema an attractive candidate to Reeths-Puffer, is what made Subdon an attractive candidate to Russell.
“Number one is relationships,” Russell said. “He’s one of those good guys. The kids respond to him and he relates to them. I think he relates to them because of his life experiences growing up. I’ve known him since he was five years old. He grew up with my oldest son (Aaron). He’s grown exponentially as a person. He’s at that stage of his life where he’s ready for a new challenge.”
That challenge has arrived, and Subdon is ready to go. Coincidentally, Subdon’s first varsity group will share a big similarity with its new coach: Aardema became Subdon’s varsity coach for his senior year after previously coaching the JV. Now the same will be true of the group Subdon has led over the past few years, a team Subdon is excited to continue working with.
“We were 10-10 on JV (in 2019-20) and they decided his pandemic wouldn’t hold us back,” Subdon said. “They worked their tails off and we went 14-1 (this year). They want to get better. I’m excited to see this group.
“My whole JV team last year, essentially, was sophomores. It’s an exciting group. I’ve been in contact with them and they’re ready to get in the gym and work.”