Off The Press

July 21, 2009

By Bob Taylor

Coach’s legacy was more than Xs and Os

Bob Taylor Press Sports Editor

Bob Taylor Press Sports Editor

The mark of a great coach doesn’t always come from wins and championships.

That’s not to say the late Gary Moore wasn’t successful on the football field. His 137-72-4 win-loss record, three KingCo Conference championships and seven state playoff appearances, including a second-place finish in 1980’s Kingbowl, are indications that this man knew a lot about Xs and Os.

But his other success was as a role model to thousands of students and athletes at Issaquah High School. Some former students, like Mount Si High School’s Charlie Kinnune, followed Moore’s footsteps and became coaches. Moore taught more than football, however. He taught life lessons.

When the Issaquah School Board voted unanimously last month to name the Issaquah High School football field after Moore, it was a touchdown. He was very deserving of the honor. Moore, who passed away last September, was a classy guy.I met Gary for the first time following a preseason football practice on a sweltering day in August 1976. I had just been hired as a sports writer at the now defunct Journal-American, returning to the Pacific Northwest after working at a paper in Colorado.

I knew very little about the Eastside, Issaquah football’s tradition or the KingCo Conference. Two hours after the practice, Gary had provided me information for a preview story about his team, insights on where to reside on the Eastside and a background on KingCo.

It was about two weeks later that I discovered that Gary was a very special person. I was assigned the Newport at Issaquah season-opener. Issaquah won the game on a late touchdown pass from quarterback Clete Casper, who later played at Washington State University. I had little time for post-game interviews because of an early deadline. I raced back to the office and filed a story.

When I came in Monday morning, the phone rang and it was a call from Gary. He had spent the bulk of Saturday morning driving to stores to find a copy of the Journal-American. He called to thank me for the story. In my 30-plus years of journalism, a coach calling to thank me for an article has been fairly rare.

Over the years, I discovered how special Gary was, in his coaching and his relationships with players. I had the opportunity to interview him many times. One of the last stories I did was when Gary and his wife were selling their Issaquah home and moving to Puyallup. I got the grand tour of the house, seeing the office where Gary and his staff put together their game plans. The photos and other memorabilia in there made the office look like a mini shrine.

I would often see Gary at state playoff games in the Tacoma Dome. We talked football, but we also discussed other issues, such as health. His was fine, but mine was starting to go downhill. The last time we talked, I had just begun my battle with cancer. Gary said he would pray for me. A classy guy.

I thought Gary would live forever. He was a guy who stayed in fantastic physical shape. It was a shock when he passed away. One of my regrets was I was unable to attend his funeral, because I was still recovering from a stem cell transplant. However, I will cherish his memory forever.

He touched so many lives. Former Issaquah coach and athlete John Jarvinen, who I first met at Western Washington University as a student, referred to Gary as a “friend, mentor and sometimes, a dad.”

Yes, the school board got it right when it decided to name the field after Gary Moore, just as it did in 2003 by naming the high school gymnasium after the late Pat Hatmaker, the architect of the Issaquah gymnastics program. To her gymnasts, including current coaches Ryan Fleisher, of Issaquah, and Debbie Gliner, of Skyline, she was a mentor, inspiration and friend.

Wins and losses are important, but the life lessons Gary and Pat left behind will last forever.

Reach Sports Editor Bob Taylor at 392-6434, ext. 236, or bobtaylor@isspress.com. Comment on this column at www.issaquahpress.com.

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