Fiene steps down as girls basketball coach

Rob Reischel

Amber Fiene

Amber Fiene loved her three years as Sauk Prairie’s girls basketball coach.

She was excited about the progress being made inside the Eagles’ program.

And that’s what made it so tough to step down.

Fiene has an infant son, and although it’s rare, children under the age of 1 are at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19. This is likely due to their immature immune systems and smaller airways, which make them more likely to develop breathing issues with respiratory virus infections.

With that in mind, Fiene recently decided to resign from a job she loved — and a program she once excelled inside of.

“(It’s) mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty that it brings for this summer, fall and upcoming season,” Fiene said when asked why she’s stepping down. “It is the right decision for my family right now and (my son’s) health is number one. I'm excited to have a little bit more time with him and focus on my family.”

Fiene inherited a program that hadn’t produced a winning season since 2009-10. After going 13-32 in its first two years under Fiene, Sauk Prairie turned a corner last winter and went 13-11 overall.

The Eagles also won their first postseason game since 2014 last year, downing Portage in a WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinal.

“I have loved my past three years of coaching at Sauk Prairie and this will be the first time in nine years that I haven't been coaching high school basketball,” Fiene said. “What I'm most proud of is the fact that we were able to turn the program around and get it heading in the right direction.

“We created a much more competitive atmosphere, as well as a more inclusive, proud environment for youth through high school girls basketball players and their families. I'm very proud of the girls for working so hard and taking on a new style of basketball this past year as it was a much faster pace and was very demanding of them, especially on the defensive end.”

Sauk Prairie was expected to bring back a solid nucleus next season that included first-team all-conference guard Naomi Breunig, guard Olivia Breung, point guard Faith Holler, post Maggie Hartwig and several other key contributors from this season.

Fiene believes that whoever takes over will inherit a program that’s certainly on the uptick.

“I think that the program is in a much better place than when I took it over three years ago,” Fiene said. “The new coach coming in will have a group of girls eager to get after it and with some experience when it comes to competing and battling to win games. 

“My goal was to create a winning mentality, especially since that was not the recent history when I stepped into the role, and I was beginning to see more and more of that throughout the year.  I'm very excited to see where this program goes and will always root for Sauk Prairie basketball.”

Fiene wanted to thank Eagles’ athletic director Josh Boyer for taking a chance on a first-time head coach, as well as assistant coaches Joel Chrisler, Chuck Fiene and Tyler Fuchs. Fiene also thanked the players who seemingly have the program headed on the right track.

“I want to thank my players for all the hard work that they put in and for seeing the vision we had for the Sauk Prairie girls basketball program,” Fiene said. “I'm proud of you all and know that you will continue to do great things in the future — both on and off the court.”

Fiene, a 2008 graduate of Sauk Prairie, ranks as the second-leading scorer in school history. She also earned Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association all-state honorable mention honors as a senior.

Basketball is definitely in her blood.

That’s why Fiene said she might return to coaching if, and when, the time is right.

“I definitely am open to coaching down the road, but right now am excited to focus on my family and to be present for all the milestones of my son, Maverick, as he continues to grow up so fast,” she said. “My passion for basketball hasn't died a bit since the first time I stepped foot into a gym, so I think there will definitely be more basketball in my future.”

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