Former Sehome coach Pat Fitterer retires

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 24, 2014 

Former Sehome boys' basketball coach Pat Fitterer, who had the most coaching victories of any active coach in the state, announced his retirement from coaching after his most recent team at Ellensburg wrapped up its season, according to stories in the Ellensburg Daily Record and Yakima Herald Republic.

Fitterer who coached the Mariners for 13 seasons, including a memorable run to the 1996 Class 4A state title, spent the final four seasons of his Hall of Fame career coaching at his alma mater.

The Bulldogs went 12-8 this season without standout point guard Garrett Hull, who was lost to a knee injury during the football season, and fell to Wapato in the first round of the CWAC District Tournament.

"Ellensburg has given my family and I more than I can give back," Fitterer told the Daily Record. "It's been a pleasure to coach and help my fellow Eburgers become better people and athletes. I have heard coaches say that you know when it is time to pass the torch and sit back and enjoy life."

Fitterer, 60, has certainly earned that right, as he coached for 37 seasons, leading his teams to 728 wins, 12 district titles, 23 state berths, 15 state trophies and two state titles and has had only one losing season (7-14 in 1989 at Kentwood).

He ranks second on the state's career coaching wins list behind only Mercer Island's Ed Pepple.

In addition, he was inducted into the Central Washington University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2007.

"Inside, I just feel like this is the time," Fitterer told the Herald Republic. "I thought about it some last year, and I guess I came to the conclusion this season over winter break. We got such a late start (Ellensburg's football team advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals) that it felt like you were running a sprint and the other guys got a 30-yard head start."

And keeping up became harder and harder to do and ended up taking more and more time away from his family, Fitterer said.

That, more than anything, led to his decision to step away, though Fitterer told the Daily Record that he plans to continue teaching kindergarten through third-grade physical education at Highland and will attend Bulldog games throughout his retirement.

"It used to be that if you played in one or two tournaments during the summer you were ahead," Fitterer told the Herald Republic. "Now you have to play three or four just to stay even."

Though Fitterer played basketball when he was a student at Ellensburg, his primary sport was football, and he went on to play at Yakima Valley Community College and Central.

He began coaching in 1975 at Highland, and his focus began to move back toward basketball, though he coached a number of sports during his career.

Fitterer was known for his positive coaching style and his ability to keep things fun for his players, and he led Highland to a Class 1A state basketball title in 1988.

After a two-year stop at Kentwood, Fitterer came to Sehome in 1990 and led the Mariners to nine state berths, six state trophies and a 265-82 record before leaving so he and his family could return to the Yakima Valley following the 2002-03 season.

His most memorable season in Bellingham certainly was 1995-96, when he led a Mariners squad, still considered among the best the state has ever seen, to a 30-0 record and the state title.

He wished current coach A.J. LaBree and this year's Mariners luck in this year's state tournament, as they face District 4 No. 1 seed Mark Morris in a 4 p.m. regional of the 2A state tournament at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 1, at Chehalis W.F. West.

"My family loved our time in Bellingham," Fitterer wrote in an email. "Both girls graduated from Sehome and have great memories. We look forward to our Lummi Island trip to stay with our great friends Bill and Shelli Brown every summer. I told (Sehome) Athletic Director Colin Cushman I would coach my whole life or until the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl."

As that did not happen until earlier this month, Fitterer went on to coach at Yakima Eisenhower for seven seasons so that he and his family could return to the Yakima Valley. He announced his first retirement when his wife, high school sweetheart Kathy, was diagnosed with cancer following the 2009-10 season.

But at the encouragement of his family, Fitterer accepted the head coaching job at his alma mater later that year.

Kathy died on June 24, 2011, and Fitterer wore a pink shirt - Kathy's favorite color - and his Ellensburg players wore pink shoes in honor of her during the 2011-12 season.

Fitterer has two daughters, three grandsons and one granddaughter and is engaged to be married next summer.

"Now I won't have to miss the Christmas shows and Valentine's Day parties and birthday parties - all the things my grandkids really enjoy now," Fitterer told the Herald Republic. "Kathy and my daughters have been with me every step of the way, and Kirsten (his fiancé) has been a real blessing.

"Now I won't have to spend all spring setting up summer ball and all that stuff. We basketball coaches have created our own monster. It was a lot of fun for a very long time, but now it's just time to step away."

GREAT COACHING FIT

A look at Pat Fitterer's basketball coaching career, and his record in state tournaments:

School Year W-L Pct. Berths Trophies Titles
Highland 1977-88 239-52 .821 9 7 1
Kentwood 1988-90 19-22 .463 0 0 --
Sehome 1990-2003 265-82 .764 9 6 1
Eisenhower 2003-10 141-49 .742 3 2 0
Ellensburg 2010-14 64-27 .703 2 0 0
Career 37 seasons 728-232 .758 23 15 2

Reach David Rasbach at 360-715-2286 or david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com .

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