Winning coach, Werner Christen, retires after 35 years
After 35 years, Douglas High School head basketball coach Werner Christen is hanging up his whistle.
“Werner and I grew up together and went to high school together,” fellow Whittell High alum Andy Hughes said. “As a coach he was pretty player oriented. Some coaches are set in their ways and mold teams into what they want. Werner was able to be flexible enough to say this isn’t going to work with this group of kids.”
Christen, 61, coached girls basketball at Douglas High School over the past 20 years and has coached several different youth sports around the Valley.
Douglas High Principal Joe Girdner said he remembered being coached by Christen in Little League. He also coached Pop Warner and AYSO soccer.
Fellow coach Brian Mello said he’s known Christen for 20 years, when he served as an assistant coach on the girls side.
“I know a couple of years ago I heard he was the all-time winningest coach,” he said. “Werner would tell you he was also the all-time losingest coach.”
Mello said it was the relationship he had with the players that made the difference.
“His success had nothing to do with Xs and Os or strategies,” Mello said. “It didn’t matter where you were on the pecking order, he made every kid feel like they were important. When he walks into the guy, he makes everyone happy.”
Mello said he learned a great deal from Christen just by watching him work.
“I can’t recall him ever raising his voice or getting mad,” Mello said. “It just wasn’t him. It was neat to see him work with the kids. I learned a ton from him by just observing. He was just one of those guys you want to be around.”
Christen’s basketball teams wound up in the playoffs the last seven seasons in a row, and in 2012, he received a plaque for being the all-time winningest coach in any sport. At the time his record was 226 games since 1998-99.
“He said ‘he never won one game, never made a pass,’ it was never, ever about him,” Mello said.
Former R-C Sports Editor Joey Crandall said that while Christen will be missed, he won’t be missing.
“While Douglas High loses its most tenured and winningest coach, it keeps its biggest fan,” Crandall said. “You’ll likely still see him in the bleachers, on the sidelines, behind the microphone of television broadcasts, helping with the chain crew during football season or manning the grill by the snack bar — just where he has always been. He loves Tiger sports. Has loved it since the moment he set foot on campus and will continue to love it well into the future.”
Crandall said Christen was named the regional and league Coach of the Year multiple times and in multiple sports during his career.
“He hated that those honors were so singular in title — preferring instead to point toward his players and his assistant coaches in each case.”
This is Christen’s second retirement from public life. He served as Douglas County recorder from 2003 to 2008, having been elected to the job.
He worked for the recorder’s office for 33 years, having started after he graduated from Whittell in 1975.
He moved to Douglas County in 1963 when his father retired from the U.S. Air Force. He grew up on Andria Drive.
He has two daughters, Britney and Lisa.