SEATTLE - Marv Harshman, the Hall of Fame coach, mentor, icon, and player at Washington, Washington State and Pacific Lutheran University beloved throughout the state and beyond, passed away Friday morning.
Dave Harshman informed Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar and assistants Paul Fortier and Brad Jackson of his father's passing in phone calls Friday. Romar, Fortier and Jackson played for Coach Harshman.
Mr. Harshman was 95 years old - and revered in our state from Omak past Olympia, from Puget Sound across the Palouse.
"We obviously lost a legend," Romar said Friday. "I learned so much from Coach. He is one of the main reasons I'm here at the University of Washington.
"I went to Washington expecting to play with a legendary coach. I didn't know I would get the bonus of playing for a legendary person.
"He will be missed by all of us."
Mr. Harshman was 642-448 in 40 seasons as coach at Pacific Lutheran - where he also coached the football team - and at Washington State and UW. He was conference coach of the year three times (1976, '82, '84) while leading Washington from 1972-85. He led the Huskies four 20-win seasons, and five postseasons, including three NCAA tournaments. Almost as soon as he left coaching he was elected to the Husky Hall of Fame, in 1985.
He was a giant in our state, as tall and enduring and recognizable as an evergreen.
"You're talking about coaching at PLU, Washington State and Washington, and his own background as an athlete - he was just a household name," Romar said.
"I've gone to many banquets and award shows where he was being honored and he just was revered by so many people; everyone from Bobby Knight to Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) and on and on and on. I could always say I played for Marv Harshman and right away those great ones know who he is -- not just in the state of Washington."
Mr. Harshman would have been even larger nationally than he was had the Pacific-8 and Pac-10 conferences not sent only one team annually to the NCAA tournament each year during John Wooden's era at UCLA. Wooden's time coincided with much of Harshman's in the league, and the two became great friends.
"He was just an unbelievable teacher for me, personally," Fortier said. "He was an incredible teacher, and the court was his classroom. He really taught me how to keep things in perspective, in life and in basketball. Along with his wife, Dorothy, he was a great family man.
"Winning. Basketball. But family - that was Coach Harshman. He was a basketball coach. He was a baseball coach and a football coach when he was younger, too. But I saw how much he was still about his family."
Mr. Harshman was born Oct. 4, 1917, in Eau Claire, Wis. He moved to the Pacific Northwest as a child and graduated from Lake Stevens High School in Washington. He lettered 13 times in four -- four-- sports and was a basketball All-American at Pacific Lutheran in Tacoma. He graduated in 1942 and served the next three years for the U.S. Navy before returning to PLU to coach two sports.
After 235 basketball wins at Pacific Lutheran from 1945-58, Mr. Harshman moved to WSU. He won 155 games in 13 seasons with the Cougars.
Jackson, the national-champion head coach at Western Washington last year who just finished his first season assisting Romar at UW, chose to play at Washington State over Washington because he wanted to learn from the best, Harshman.
"Marv had a great life, and it's sad today. But I think this is a cause of celebration, as well," said Jackson.
He met Mr. Harshman when he was a 15-year-old trying to get recruited by the legend to WSU.
That friendship will last beyond Friday.
Jackson had been in touch with Mr. Harshman "almost daily" in recent years, the Huskies assistant said, while Mr. Harshman moved to an assisted-care facility in Tacoma. Jackson visited the coach many times in his place near the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and had said this winter that Mr. Harshman's health was deteriorating.
When Mr. Harshman left Washington State to coach Washington in 1971 he got a $3,000 raise up to $21,000 annually, according to a profile of him by Steve Kelly in the Seattle Times on June 11, 2011.
The legacy he left behind Friday in this state is beyond priceless.
"We lost a great one," Jackson said. "But when we look back and see how many lives he and Dorothy (who died in 2008) influenced, he was a pretty significant factor in the Northwest for many decades. Not just in sports. In life.
"He just loved people. And people loved him."