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Whidbey News-Times Sports Editor Jim Waller (right) listens as CHS coach David King talks basketball strategy. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

The adult is leaving the room.

After a lifetime on Whidbey Island, years spent as a stellar athlete, teacher, coach, and journalist, Jim Waller is out the door Friday.

Retirement from his second stint as Sports Editor at the Whidbey News-Times sends him and wife Sandee off on a new adventure to North Carolina, where the grandkids await.

Over the years, as I’ve bounced around the world of Whidbey journalism, writing thousands of stories for multiple publications while never really settling down, one constant has been true.

When he was writing, Waller was the dad sitting in the big leather chair, peering over his paper every so often to tell us, in dulcet tones, the news of the world.

And I was the Dennis the Menace-style kid, even at 49, tottering atop the fence outside his house, screaming “Hey, you wanna know what I just heard?????,” before falling off and landing on my head.

We made a good Mutt and Jeff team, especially in postgame interviews with coaches.

Waller would ask a deep question about in-game strategy, drawing on decades of knowledge and the gravitas which comes with being a member of a real coaches Hall of Fame.

Then, I would follow up by channeling Chris Farley hyperventilating while interviewing someone like Paul McCartney on SNL.

“So, yeah, that one time, when Ethan Spark went flying out of bounds chasing the basketball, and he like completely wiped out the water jug, and liquid and bodies went flying everywhere, and people were screaming like the alien invasion was underway, that was kinda cool, wasn’t it???”

And now you want me — ME???? — to be the elder statesman of Whidbey sports journalism?

Yeah, that’ll give Willie Smith the cold sweats at night…

To think, if it wasn’t for Waller, all those words I’ve typed (and a few that I was paid for) probably wouldn’t have happened.

When my dad moved the family to Whidbey, I was in the middle of my senior year at Tumwater High School, with vague thoughts of becoming a chef.

Which is odd, since I wasn’t especially talented at anything other than joining my friend Ray Jacoby in eating “liberated” cookie dough from the freezer at the New Market Vocational Skills Center.

Forced to take an extra semester at Oak Harbor High School, I signed up for journalism — even though you were supposed to have been pre-approved, which I certainly wasn’t.

I had all of two stories from my time at the super-unfunded THS newspaper (Terry Pullen, our principal, forever an ass), and they probably didn’t scream future sports writer or film critic.

One was an editorial calling for Ted Bundy to be fried in the electric chair, the other was an in-depth look at child porn and sex abuse.

Because we were baiting the principal, who promptly erased the rest of our $1.12 worth of funding.

Best/worst memory of that second story was conducting an interview with a naturally-suspicious police detective as I began to suffer incredibly bad food poisoning after eating from the skills center’s salad bar.

Somehow, I didn’t hurl until right AFTER the interview, but I like to think anyone else in the Thurston County Sheriff Department Office parking lot that day will never forget the horror and the wonder.

But anyway, using my two newspaper clips, I somehow convinced Waller to let me stay in his class, inadvertently launching a 30-year “career.”

He was the one who let me irritate the student body by writing self-righteous angry young man editorials in the OHHS newspaper — which was well-funded — and the one who got me my first story in the News-Times.

From there, Waller was always around, as a sounding board, a mentor, and someone to emulate.

There have been moments when I have come close to honoring his serene, smart style — and a lot where I ranted and raved and burnt bridges (while I was standing on them), testing the patience of many an editor.

When I moved into doing Coupeville Sports, with no one to stifle me (or save me from myself), he was there, having returned to the News-Times for a second run after retirement as a coach and teacher.

Since I often attacked the Canadian owners of the local papers, after they inspired me to launch this blog by erasing hundreds upon hundreds of my bylined stories from their publication web sites, there were some who thought I viewed Waller as a rival.

Not in the least.

He was my mentor, journalistic idol, friend, and the man who always paid when we went out for our semi-regular lunches at The Pizza Factory.

I brought gossip, he brought reason and insight, and, when I have allowed his patient guidance to sink in, it has always made me a better writer, reporter, and person.

My arc through the world of journalism has never been an easy one — I am very likely the only Sports Editor of a twice-weekly paper to leave that job to go work on … mussel rafts in Penn Cove.

Stupid at 23. Stupid at 49. Notice a trend here?

Through it all, through the News-Times, the Examiner, Coupeville Sports, the various movie columns and fly-by-night papers, careening from giddy highs to moments when I’ve been (rightfully) kicked out of Coupeville’s press box and banned from the gyms of rival schools, Waller was the calm voice of reason.

He never tried to change my writing style, or my antisocial tendencies.

But he was always there, with knowledge, with reason, with subtle guidance, if I would take it.

Days before his departure, our final pizza party came at an outdoor picnic table thanks to the pandemic.

While the surroundings were different, the meal wasn’t.

I told dumb stories, to which he gave a smile and nod. And he answered questions, filled in gaps in my knowledge, and offered encouragement, all without ever pushing too hard.

My journalism career has been its own weird thing, but it never would have happened without Jim Waller.

He was the spark, the support crew, and the audience, all rolled into one.

And, for that, I will always be grateful.

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Coupeville High School girls hoops coach Scott Fox (back) swaps tales with Whidbey News-Times Sports Editor Jim Waller. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Waller discusses strategy with Wolf hoops guru David King.

The elder statesman of Whidbey Island sports journalism is leaving the building.

And the state.

Jim Waller, my Oak Harbor High School journalism teacher, and the man most responsible for my writing “career,” retires in two weeks.

His last day at the Whidbey News-Times is December 18.

After that, the lifelong Whidbey resident and his wife are moving to North Carolina to be closer to their sons and their families.

Waller has been at the core of Whidbey Island sports since his birth, as a player, teacher, coach, and writer.

He was born into the life, one of the sons of revered local coach Mert Waller, who led four Coupeville High School sports programs (football, basketball, baseball, and track), before moving to similar positions in Oak Harbor.

Jim Waller was a standout prep athlete at OHHS, who returned to teach and coach multiple sports at his alma mater.

Of the two people actively writing about sports on Whidbey, he is the only one to be a member of a real Hall of Fame, honored in 2001 by the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Waller led the OHHS baseball program for 30 years, taking the Wildcats to the Class 3A state title game.

A graduate of the University of Washington, he was in his second go-round with Whidbey’s newspapers.

Waller first wrote for the News-Times as a youngster, then returned to the post after retiring from the Oak Harbor School District.

As he prepares to depart, several Coupeville coaches, past and present, offered their thoughts on the easy-going legend.

 

Mike Etzell:

He is quality, character, with a twinkle in his eye, and one of the constants on fields/courts across Whidbey.

 

Scott Fox:

I was fortunate to meet Jim this past year as it was my first year as a head coach and little did I know it would be his last as a sports writer. 

The one word that comes to mind when I think of Jim is dedication. Jim is the guy who loved what he did and it showed.

We had some great conversations about Coupeville sports and how they have evolved throughout the years.

His enthusiasm for local sports and working with kids really comes through starting with his coaching for many years to now covering them as a newspaper journalist.

He always approached his job as a sports writer with the utmost professionalism and I really enjoyed our post game conversations.

We are losing a local legend in the sports world but at the same time I am happy for him in retirement and being able to spend more time with his family.

He is a great guy and will be truly missed!

 

David King:

I’ve known Jim since 1982 or 1983 when he was teaching and coaching at Oak Harbor. At the time I was just finishing high school.

Sadly I didn’t play baseball for him.

I really got to know Jim on the basketball court.

Back in the ’80s and into the ’90s the teachers from Oak Harbor would get together on Sunday evenings and play. I was lucky enough to have an invite and played.

Back then on the basketball court, Jim wasn’t flashy, but he seemed to always make the right plays or be in the right spot.

What I should have realized then, but came to realize later in life, Jim was a student of the game.

That goes for basketball, baseball and softball. I’m sure other sports as well.

Fast forward to my time coaching softball and basketball. During this time Jim was the sports guy for the Whidbey News-Times.

Many times after a home game, we would talk stats and sports article material that he could use.

Then he and I would talk the in-depth details.

I could sit and talk these details with Jim any day of the week. The X’s and O’s.

He was able to see things a normal fan or parent may not recognize.

Early on, he wouldn’t push his thoughts, but asked questions based off of what he saw during the games.

As the years went on, the conversations evolved, more open and we actually would talk strategies and Jim would share his experiences and still ask why certain things happened like they did.

Because he is a student of the game and a successful coach, these conversations helped me as a coach.

I believe he and I would see the same things, his experiences I could relate to.

And I feel like I was doing the right things as a coach and for the teams based off of our conversations.

After Amy and I got out of coaching I found I missed the conversations and interaction with Jim.

He is someone I respect and I’m grateful for the friendship that evolved over time.

 

Brad Sherman:

I’ve always really enjoyed getting to chat with Jim after games. 

He knows the game well, knows our athletes, and is really skilled in the way he recaps games.

I think the sports community in Coupeville is very lucky to have had Jim covering our teams. 

Over the years he’s taken the time to spotlight certain kids who have worked extremely hard to get where they are, or community members that have given so much to our programs.

He truly is a class act. We will certainly miss him!

With that said, I wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement, and hope to still see him up in the stands at a few games in the future.  

 

Willie Smith:

Personally, as a baseball coach, there were few coaches that I ever really strived to have a “Your program is going in the right direction or your kids really seem to understand the game and play hard every single day” type of a comment from, and, along with Stan Taloff, Jim was always one of those guys.

His knowledge of the game and his willingness to share, first while he was coaching, then as a reporter, was always welcomed by me.

It was great listening to his stories and experiences in his 30+ years career and I certainly appreciated the moments that he and I just got to visit about everything around athletics.

I was also very fortunate to have him open up the summer baseball program to the Coupeville kids, which, for me, was a bit of an arrival moment for me in the world of coaching.

Both of my sons got to play for Jim and they had such a positive, fun experience with him and his players (and I got to just sit back and just watch them play, which was really fun!).

Jim has always been a man of high integrity, has had great insight, truly loved coaching and being around the players and I would hope that when I retire, I can be half of what Jim has been!

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CHS legends Marie and Ron Bagby are both retiring. (Ashley Heilig photo)

2020 is turning into a farewell tour for longtime Wolves.

On the heels of Randy King announcing his retirement as a Coupeville High School teacher, Ron and Marie Bagby are joining him in exiting the building.

The retirements of the husband/wife duo, who have both worked for the school district for decades, are included on the agenda for the next school board meeting, set for Tuesday, May 26.

Ron Bagby, who coached football, basketball, and track and field at CHS, after arriving in Cow Town from the wilds of Forks, was currently a PE teacher at the school.

Marie Bagby, née Grasser, is a graduate of Coupeville who was the school’s first big-time female basketball star, starting a legacy continued by younger sister Marlene.

Playing for the Wolves between 1976-1980, she rang up 321 points, and still sits as the #34 scorer all-time in program history.

Marie operated as the registrar for her alma mater, while all four of her children – April, Ashley, Mike, and Jason – followed her path as Wolf athletic stars and CHS grads.

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Randy King is retiring after 42 years as a teacher and coach, the past 29 of those in Coupeville. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Hangin’ out with track stars (l to r) Lauren Bayne, Lauren Grove, and Abby Parker.

UPDATE – 9:30 PM Monday:

School board agenda said “Retirement – Randy King, CHS/CMS Teacher and Coach.”

Latest word from the man himself: “I resigned from teaching, will not be in the classroom next year on a daily basis. Not sure yet about coaching.”

 

 

Randy King is bringing an end to a long, successful run as a teacher and coach in Coupeville, and the announcement of his impending retirement got everyone talking.

Now, the Wolf track and field guru, and former boys basketball coach, is having his say.

In his resignation letter he thanked “everyone in the district who has supported me and my family for the last 29 years, beginning with Superintendent Ernie Bartleson, teacher Mark Gale, and Principal Rock White, who brought us here in 1991.

“This has been an incredible experience. No one could possibly expect more support for their teaching, coaching, and family than the King family has received.

“Coupeville has continually worked to provide a caring educational community that has been challenging and innovative.

“The education that our Coupeville students have received has enabled them to go on to be successful in the widest possible array of careers imaginable.

“I have been able to work with amazing teachers, students, athletes, administrators and parents over this career. Thank you everyone for all you have given.”

King followed that up by responding to my (quite possibly) hyperventilating email in his usual calm manner:

 

Well David, I will be 65 years old this summer!

I’m finishing my 42nd year of teaching high school, 29 years here in Coupeville.

Time to let the young dogs have their say!

First, I’d like to say a big public thank you to my wonderful wife (Laurie), who has been a rock of support and really in a lot of ways made this career possible.

I’ve had a lot of fun working with the students and parents of Coupeville. It has been a great place to teach and coach.

The support that the community has shown to myself and my family has pretty much been like a fairy tale come true!

Not only the community but the staff at our schools have been inspiring to work with from the beginning right up to now!

You can’t imagine how many hours we have spent on those big yellow buses riding safely around the state. Our bus-drivers are some of my heroes!

Hours spent talking with custodians who always left my room with a thought and a sparkle.

Our athletic administration has always helped make this a great place to coach.

Also hats off to all the coaches who assisted me and taught me so much throughout the years.

My students have amazed me with their abilities from the beginning. They can go from Coupeville and be successful anyplace they wish.

The athletes who played ball for me, giving everything they had, and the boys and girls who have worked their tails off in track and field gave me such incredible pride to be associated with, it is hard to describe.

They have given me so much, I hope they were able to feel the pride that I felt in them.

I could say more but us old guys tend to talk too much.

Thanks to you for all you have done to support our student/athletes and my own personal family.

Coach King

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Randy King (left) is retiring after a long teaching/coaching career at Coupeville High School. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

UPDATE – 9:30 PM Monday:

School board agenda said “Retirement – Randy King, CHS/CMS Teacher and Coach.”

Latest word from the man himself: “I resigned from teaching, will not be in the classroom next year on a daily basis. Not sure yet about coaching.”

 

 

The longest-tenured coach at Coupeville High School won’t be coming back when Washington state schools reopen.

The agenda for Monday’s school board meeting included one bombshell, as Randy King’s retirement as a teacher and coach was included on it.

King has been a CHS track and field coach since the mid-2000’s, a time period in which Wolf athletes have won 11 of the 17 state meet titles in program history.

State champs he helped produce:

2006 — Jon Chittim (200, 400); Kyle King (3200); boys 4 x 400 (Chris Hutchinson, Chittim, K. King, Steven McDonald)
2007 — K. King (1600, 3200)
2008 — K. King (3200)
2010 — Tyler King (1600, 3200)
2019 — Danny Conlisk (200, 400)

Under Randy King’s tutelage, Coupeville track regularly proved quality could beat quantity, with his teams piling up strong league, district, and state finishes despite often having far fewer athletes than many of its rivals.

The Wolf boys claimed 5th place in the team standings in the last two 1A state meets, while the CHS girls were 9th in 2019.

The high-water mark for CHS track came in 2006 and 2008, when the Wolf boys finished 4th in the team standings.

His girls teams were some of the strongest in school history, and 11 of the 18 Wolf girls track school records came on his watch.

On the boys side, 12 of 17 school records belong to King-coached athletes.

Before he began his run as track guru, King coached the CHS varsity boys basketball program for 20 seasons, ruling the sidelines between 1991-2011.

He led both his 1998 and 2002 squads to Northwest League titles, and coached four of the top 10 scorers in program history.

Mike Bagby (tied for #1 with 1,137 points), Pete Petrov (#7 with 917), current CHS boys hoops coach Brad Sherman (#8 with 874), and Arik Garthwaite (#10 with 867) all called King their coach.

King also pulled a stint as a CHS assistant football coach, and, later in his career, led middle school programs for both boys basketball and volleyball.

The spikers who he taught as young women went on to provide the core of the most-recent CHS volleyball squad to earn a trip to state.

As news of his retirement filtered out to a quarantined Wolf Nation, the response was quick and highly-positive.

“Oh man, that’s rough for sure!,” said Sylvia Hurlburt, a key part of record-setting CHS relay squads. “He’s going to be missed, but he had an amazing run!”

“Thanks Randy for all your hard work and dedication!,” said Wolf mom Dawnelle Conlisk. “Congratulations on your retirement! I agree with Sylvia!”

“You will be missed by sooo many,” said Susan Hulst, whose granddaughter Alana Mihill ran track for King. “We salute you COACH. Wishing you the best on your next adventure.”

That was a sentiment echoed by those who worked with the track guru.

“He will ALWAYS be COACH to me!!!,” said CMS cross country/track coach Elizabeth Bitting. “Congrats and enjoy retirement!!!! You deserve it!!!!!!”

Shawna Kelley has two sons, Brandon and Lathom, who were CHS track stars, and a husband, Lincoln, who coached with King.

Randy, we will miss you dearly,” she said. “We are so blessed to have had you as a teacher, a coach, co-coach, and friend.

“Enjoy your retirement and we’ll see you around the bend.”

While King’s days as a coach and teacher may be coming to an end (unless we can talk him into coming back to coach little league…), that opens up the chance he might have more time to rock the mic from the press box.

Tom Zingarelli, a former longtime coach who operates the clock at many CHS and CMS athletic events, has already put the offer out there.

“One of the best that I have ever been around!!,” he said. “I expect to see you in the booth during sports seasons – it’s warmer and drier up there!”

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