For Norris, the hiring marks a return to River.
In 2015, the 2006 Mountain View High graduate was a paraeducator at the school, as well as a player on the Portland Reign semi-pro basketball team.
He asked David Long, River’s longtime boys basketball coach, if he could have access to the gym to get in some early-morning workouts. He invited some of River’s players to join him to give him somebody to work against. Those eventually turned into private training sessions with River players like Nate Snook, Naseem Gutierrez and Jacob Hjort, as well as Fort Vancouver’s Jameel Morton.
“I got emersed in the basketball community in Vancouver that way,” Norris said. “I was part of the River thing, even though I wasn’t on the (basketball) staff. It went from getting workouts with guys for selfish reasons, to developing these younger guys and watching their careers flourish.”
During the summer of 2017, he was approached by Washougal girls basketball coach Brittney Ervin, another Mountain View graduate from the class of 2006, to join her program. Norris was skeptical at first.
“I just didn’t think coaching was for me,” Norris said. “But then Brittney came to me in 2017 and said ‘hey I need a coach out at Washougal.’ And I was like ‘Ahh, I don’t know.’ She said ‘just come to one summer workout and meet everybody and see what you think.’
“And I went and just the girls’ enthusiasm for the game … they were just so willing to learn. I had fun at the workout. So I said ‘OK I’m going to do this. Try it out for a year and see how it goes.’ And I loved it.”
That started a two-year stint as Washougal’s JV girls coach that culminated with assisting on the Panthers’ varsity team that won the Class 2A state championship in 2019.
A stint coaching a summer AAU boys team that included some Ridgefield players led Norris to join Jason Buffum’s staff at Ridgefield as the boys JV coach last season.
Three years of coaching then Norris to consider a career in teaching.
“After coaching at Washougal, I was like ‘Dang, this is good making a difference in these kids’ live. I think I can teach,’ ” said Norris, who worked as mortgage broker after leaving River. “And Britney helped get me into a teaching program, really kind of help me get in this direction. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be coaching. I wouldn’t be teaching. I’d just be running workouts.”
Norris started in September as the Structured Learning Classroom (SLC) teacher at Kelso High School, working with students with behavioral issues.