Sharp-shooting swingman Erik Olson, a 2009 graduate, helped lead Linfield to the 2009 Northwest Conference playoffs. A transfer from Wisconsin-River Falls and a native of Vermont, Olson played just two seasons at Linfield but during that time he set a team record in 2008-09 for most 3-point field goals made in one season.
What have you been doing since graduation?
Immediately after finishing my degree, I was fortunate enough to have been offered a playing contract with a professional basketball club in Scotland. I played with the Falkirk Fury, eventually winning the Scottish Cup and being named MVP of the league. That opportunity and a series of events led to a summer of tryouts in Denmark and Germany where I eventually lived for four months. It also led to coaching opportunities around Europe, including two weeks in Greece working at the American Basketball Academy as well as two weeks coaching in the UK for the London Pioneers professional club. I then took another professional playing contract in Australia playing for the Wagga Wagga Heat in New South Wales and helped guide the club to a Finals appearance while also being among the top-3 scorers in the league at 28 points per game. Following that great year in Wagga Wagga, I was offered the head coaching position at The Community School in Sun Valley, Idaho, and was able to help guide the school to their first postseason victory in over six years. I am currently the head coach and professional player for the Wagga Wagga Heat as well as head coach of the Australian Under-18 development team and hope to help guide the top club to a Finals victory this season. Through basketball playing and coaching opportunities I have visited in chronological order: Scotland, England, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Australia and have spent time exploring different cultures in France, Austria, The Netherlands and New Zealand.
How did you prepare yourself for playing basketball beyond Linfield?
Playing basketball overseas has really been an eye-opening experience for me. Getting off a plane after 10-, 12-, or 20-hour journeys and going straight to a gym for a workout or tryout made me realize immediately the different approach that would be needed to be successful at the professional level. The game is very much a job and results are the only indication of your success. At the same time I realize how blessed I am to have the opportunity to play and now coach a sport beyond college and to be traveling via planes, trains and buses around the different countrysides. Coaching and playing internationally has its own challenges which are far different than basketball in the U.S. Clubs rely solely on the development of their players to succeed. The game is also much different, with all five players expected to play like a guard and also a guard needing to play like a center, which makes the game very fun to watch!
Do you see yourself following in your father’s footsteps as a basketball coach?
I am 100 percent committed to being a basketball coach once I am no longer motivated to be a successful basketball player. My heart is with basketball and I love to teach and be around the game and having been a head coach in the U.S. and now internationally at the professional level, I have put myself in a good position to keep climbing the ladder. Ultimately my goal is to be a collegiate head coach or head coach of a high level European club.
How are you applying this skills and knowledge you gained from Linfield to your life today?
I apply much of what I learned at Linfield every day, whether it be time-management and organizational skills, or my approach to the game. College for me was so much of a development and skill acquisition phase in my life. I have so many great memories of that community from the Wildcat basketball team to spending time with friends around campus. I also was put into a leadership role my senior year. Being a captain of the basketball team was the motivation that helped propel me into my first contract in Scotland (which is always the hardest opportunity to get). There are 10,000 American players and only 1,000 playing positions overseas, so getting that first job and then having success is truly a challenge in itself!
What are some of the reasons that made coming to Linfield the right decision?
Linfield was the right decision for me in a variety of ways. The small, close community was ultimately the environment that I needed to be most successful. Visiting the West Coast for the first time and driving down to McMinnville from Portland, I can remember how beautiful the campus was. From that point, it was an easy sell for the coaching staff. I had great academic advisers and was truly well taken care of and put in a position to have success.
During your travels, if someone asked you about Linfield College, what would you tell them?
I would tell them how friendly and cozy of a place Linfield is. The fact that the college is an hour’s drive to the coast and Portland and located in wine country makes it a special community. I have fond memories of being on campus and being involved in athletics and will always do whatever I can to help student-athletes at Linfield be successful. I would love to be around the community and athletic complex again and be able to help on a day-to-day basis.
Do you see yourself settling down with a house, family and golf club membership?
Certainly, some day, yes. I have already started the process with a golf membership wherever I go (thus far nothing beats Scotland)! Although I do plan to have a family and house along with running a successful basketball program, I will never lose the desire to travel, see the world and experience as many different cultures as possible and fully expect to continue my journey!