It’s been 3 1/2 decades since former Western Washington University men’s basketball coach Chuck Randall retired after 18 seasons of leading the program, but his fingerprints still are all over the game that he loved, especially here in Whatcom County.
From the break-away rims he helped invent that are now used on basketball courts around the world to the endless list of former players that learned from him and went on to teach and coach at various levels to the summer basketball camps he helped bring to Washington state, it’s not hard to find Randall’s influence. Even Western’s Thanksgiving Classic bares his name.
“What stands out to me is what an absolute mastermind of a coach he was,” Western athletics historian Paul Madison said in a phone interview. “Nobody knew more about the game than him. ... He loved the game of basketball. He simply loved every aspect of it.”
On Wednesday, March 9, Randall died at age 89 from congestive heart failure, according to a release from the school.
Randall coached the Vikings from 1963 to 1981 and posted a 275-186 record. He was selected the WWU Men’s Coach of the Century for 1900 to 1999 and has been honored by four halls of fame — Western’s, Eastern Washington’s, Central Valley High School’s and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
“He impacted lives, and that was a lot more important to him than winning games,” said Mike Dahl, who played for Randall in the mid-60s. “He really, really cared about his players. Every one of his players was important to him.”
Randall’s most memorable season at Western was in 1971-72, when he led the Vikings to a 26-4 record and the NAIA national quarterfinals after winning conference and NAIA District 1 titles. He was named NAIA Area 1 Coach of the Year following the season.
There’s no doubt that we was an incredible coach and extraordinary teach, but he was also an absolute gem of a human being. ... He lived live to the absolute fullest. You’d never meet anybody that got more out of life than Chuck Randall.
WWU athletic historian Paul Madison
After retiring from Western, Randall for the next eight seasons took college students to play basketball and study in Mexico. He also served as a volunteer assistant for the WWU women’s basketball program and attended most practices for both the men’s and women’s basketball squads, until recently, when he cut back to attending just home games. Some of the WWU coaches that benefited from Randall’s wisdom included Lynda Goodrich, Brad Jackson, Carmen Dolfo and Tony Dominguez.
“He was a great mentor of mine,” said Goodrich, who came to Western in 1971 as a graduate assistant for the women’s basketball team and later served as the school’s athletic director. “I owe a lot to him. A lot of the things I did in coaching I patterned after what I learned by watching and talking to Chuck.”
Among the gems Goodrich said she remembered gleaning from Randall were his organization during practice — he timed everything out — and being honest with his players — “They might not always like what you had to say,” she said, “but they always knew exactly where they stood. That reaffirmed what I believed.”
Not surprisingly, Randall was known as a coach’s coach, Madison said, not just because he was a coach that allowed his peers to pick his brain, but also because a number of the players he coached went on to teach or coach at every level from elementary school to college.
Randall, who was named the 2015 Basketball Old Timers Man of the Year, also used a variety of different methods to teach and inspire his teams, Madison said, recalling one instance where he had a music major sing “Impossible Dream” to the team one day in practice.
“You never knew what one day to the next would bring,” Madison said. “It was amazing the things he would do. Every day was a new day.”
Randall is survived by his wife of 60 years Doris (Reihl), three children, daughter Jennifer and sons Jeff and John; and granddaughter Novella.
A celebration of Randall’s life will be held at 1 p.m. April 2 at the Garden Street United Methodist Church (1326 N Garden St, Bellingham), with a reception to follow.
▪ Born Dec. 15, 1926 in Farmington. Raised in Veradale.
▪ Three-year letter winner in football, basketball and baseball at Central Valley High School
▪ Served in the army as a paratrooper during World War II
▪ Played baseball and received his bachelor of arts degrees from Eastern Washington University in 1949. Obtained his masters degree from Washington state in 1954.
▪ Taught and coached for four years at Opportunity Grade School.
▪ Coached basketball at Riverside, Republic, Lindbergh, Freeman and Lind high schools in eastern Washington
▪ Coach at El Segundo High School in Los Angeles for one season in 1961-62, leading the Eagles to their first league title since 1936. He was named Coach of the Year.
▪ Hired to coach men’s basketball at Western Washington in 1962 and led the team for 18 season until retiring in 1981 (he did not coach the 1975-76 season).
▪ Led the Vikings to a 285-186 record (second all-time in career wins at school behind Brad Jackson’s 518). Four times he was selected Evergreen Conference Coach of the Year and NAIA District 1 Coach of the Year on three occasions.
▪ Selected NAIA District 1 Coach of the Year in 1966, 1971 and 1972.
▪ Also coached baseball at WWU, directing the Vikings to two national tournament appearances — placing fifth in 1964 and eighth in 1965.