The story of Raimee Odum’s blisteringly fast ascension to the top of the mountain at Blackfoot is so compelling, in large part, because there’s an alternate universe where she turns down the opportunity in the first place.
Think back to March 2020. The coronavirus pandemic was starting. Odum also had a baby on the way. The former Blackfoot player noticed that the girls basketball team’s head coaching position was open, so she considered applying.
To her friends, the idea seemed crazy. She had experience both playing and coaching with the Broncos’ program, but with such uncertainty looming, wouldn’t it be smarter to hold off? Maybe, but you don’t achieve the kind of success Odum has without some level of confidence.
Eleven months later, it paid off to the tune of Blackfoot’s first state championship in program history, a key reason why Odum is The Post Register’s All-Area Coach of the Year. The Broncos topped Century in the 4A state title game. Suddenly, Odum had delivered what the previous head coaches had not — in her first season at the helm.
“You always wish for this. You always hope for this,” Odum said after the game. “I knew that we had a talented group. We had a really talented group of girls. They are so good to each other. They have great relationships off the court. That, in itself, is special. I knew that we could go a long way, as long as we kept working. We kept trying to strive to get better.”
It helped that Odum knew almost all of her players already. In 2017-18, she served as a varsity assistant, and the next season, she became the JV head coach. She took the next year off to focus on raising her children, but the benefits had already taken hold. She fostered relationships with nearly the entire 2020 roster.
Still, those didn’t pay off immediately. It was most noticeable in Blackfoot’s third game of the season, a 43-16 loss to Century. Coaches scratched their heads. It amounted to a confounding loss.
Then it became a turning point. The Broncos won nine of their next 10 games, their only defeat to 5A power Rigby, turning in victories over Hillcrest, Idaho Falls, Minico and Skyline.
That the Broncos beat the Grizzlies in that stretch represented two things: Irony and foreshadowing.
Two months later, Odum faced her most grueling challenge yet. Her team kicked off a two-week span in which Blackfoot faced Skyline a whopping four times, three times in the 4A District 6 tournament and once in the 4A state tournament opener.
The Broncos’ record was an even 2-2, including a 48-40 win at state.
“We’ve got players that I have so much confidence in, like Prairie (Caldwell) and Espy (Vergara), and they answered the call,” Odum said. “They came up big when we needed them. I was so proud of them, and they had the confidence to do that. It’s so important at this point in the season.”
Perhaps more importantly, those players took a liking to their new coach as the season progressed.
“It was all Raimee,” Caldwell said. “Raimee, our coaching staff, things relaxed a lot. We learned how to play together, and as a team.”
Before long, the Broncos became champions, the first group to claim the title.
“It means everything,” Odum said. “I’m so proud of these girls and how they responded. This was a really tough battle. Century came out and played a great game. Just being able to get through the adversity that we’ve gone through, going from that first Century game to here, it’s really sweet, and I’m so proud of the way they bought in this year. It’s awesome.”