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Q&A with with Frank Naish

  • Written by Don Mann

Frank Naish
Photo courtesy of Inglemoor High School. Frank Naish
Inglemoor football coach, athletic director, resigned after 34 years at the helm

A week after handing in your resignation, do you feel more comfortable or less comfortable with the decision?

That’s a good question. I’ll just say I feel comfortable with the decision; I’ve always felt comfortable. It’s probably setting in a little more now. I think being patient to see where my personal life takes me is an issue.

Why did you make the decision now? Was it the 2-7 record? 19-20 the last four seasons?

There’s a lot of factors. I think the biggest factor is wanting to make sure, being 63, to make sure I’m not missing out on part of life. I’ve been in football for all of my life, 50 years … So you want to look at that to maybe go enjoy some things that you’ve missed out on. Like, I kinda like dirt biking but I’ve never had time to go ride one. So at least you look at it, I think that was number one … I don’t think the win-loss records were a factor — you said we were 19-20 but if you take the 2-7 off that we were doing fine…Four years ago we were in the state quarterfinals. This year was obviously a frustrating year but I was looking at (resigning) last January. The biggest thing that’s changed in football — and that’s why there won’t be anymore Frank Naishes who went 39 years as a head coach — is because it’s become a full-time job. I spend more time working on football than Steve Sarkisian. I’m in the weight room every day all summer … four days a week all winter … and then I’ve got the regular season …So there’s very little time off.

You talked about wanting to spend more time with family, to do other things. Anything specific?

I’m an avid golfer. I wrote myself a note in August about moving forward and I wrote “poor year for golf outings.” I golfed three times all last summer. And I like to golf. That was something, had I stayed in football, I was gonna work on ... I get one vacation a year. I go to Hawaii in the spring. There is no summer vacation in my life; never has been.

So I wonder what it would be like to go on a summer trip, to have time to go to a bowl game. I’ve never been to a bowl game. I’m a high school football coach and I’ve never been to a bowl game. I was kinda jealous when one of our teachers here went down and watched the Huskies play at LSU. I was jealous … I’d like to experience some of that kind of stuff.

You were the longest tenured coach in the region, winningest coach in KingCo history. How would you like football people to remember you?

It’s not about the wins and losses. I didn’t win any of those games. The kids won all the games. I didn’t lose any either. In the sport of football, so much of it is a program. I’d like to be remembered as a guy that had a good enough relationship that my four primary coaches were with me almost my whole career. I didn’t run ’em off and we had a great relationship. When I started making noise about this I got a lot of emails from past players who felt like our coaching staff — not just me — made a difference in their lives. Because the four of us were a unit. We kept football and winning and losing in perspective. That was important to me.

You notched 189 wins in 34 years. Does any one, or maybe a couple, stand out the most?

There’s a few that stand out. I remember way back we beat Shorewood and they played for the state title the year before. People said we had no chance of beating ‘em but we did … I remember the year we played at Gonzaga that got us into the final game. It was like 10 degrees; it was really, really cold … I remember one game where we went into overtime and one of my assistants during the period before overtime starts chewing on the ref and gets a 15-yard penalty. So we start overtime 15 yards back and we still won.

In ’93 you got to the title game in the Kingdome before losing to Tumwater 33-7. What do you remember most about the experience?

The ride, the whole year. We were kind of a Cinderella team. We lost to Snohomish halfway through the year in a big game and came back and won our league.

Each week we were the team the people didn’t expect to keep going. Very special group of kids. Wayne Maxwell and Cory Smith at Woodinville were a part of that team. Wayne was our good running back and Cory was our good wide receiver. And they were our corners, too. Coach Bainter was part of that team, too, as an assistant coach. That was kind of a unique set of circumstances that year.

When do you actually stop being coach and AD?

The AD portion goes away at the end of the semester which is like January 30. The football job as far as I’m concerned is gone. They’ve posted the job and people can apply for it … I’m not irritated or anything like that. I’m not on the committee to hire anybody. That’ll be done by a group of people outside of my life.

You still teach math. How much longer will you do that?

I haven’t thought about it much. Know what? The thing I enjoy the most is teaching math. I’ve always enjoyed the two or three periods a day I spent teaching more than the rest of the day being the athletic director.

You said you won’t be involved in selecting a new coach and AD. Who will make that decision?

They’re two very different contracts. The AD is part of the world of teachers. An AD is a teacher on assignment, and that gets done by the principal and the district. The coaching part — we have a coaching union in this district — and there’s a committee that’s formed to hire a new coach. That committee is made up of a teacher, someone from the community, a player, and they make a recommendation and ultimately the district and principal will make a decision.

Your resignation comes at a time of some criticism from boosters and other parents. How much did that play a role in your decision?

It would be naive of me to say it didn’t play any role … but it didn’t play a huge role. I think what people don’t sometimes understand is the most critical people are ourselves.

The person most critical of the loss is the coach. I think people out there sometimes think that coaches don’t care … but we care more than anybody. So I didn’t need to hear criticism on not having a good season; I heard myself every day. Did it play a part? Yeah it did. But I think the whole social media part of it exaggerated it a bit … Parents I think mean well; they just don’t see the big picture very well. And we’re all that way as parents … I remember when my son played for us and one night my wife wanted to know why he wasn’t getting to play more … That’s the wife of the head coach looking at it through that prism … But that’s part of coaching. Criticism is out there … but it should stay … out there.

You brought in (defensive coordinator) Jeff Schmidt this year with high hopes. Some insiders say that didn’t go well. How do you think it went?

I think Jeff brings enthusiasm. I don’t feel that Jeff was as good a fit into our program as I would have liked to have seen.

And I think that’s where I’ll leave it.

Any time you hire someone you try to predict how that fit’s gonna be. Jeff wasn’t a bad fit, he just wasn’t the fit I was hoping for. Plus he comes in on the heels of Sam Merriman, who’s as good a defensive coordinator as there is in the state. But you had to love Jeff’s enthusiasm. He brought that.

So it’s Friday night next September and the Vikings are playing at the Pop, maybe Bothell, maybe Woodinville. You won’t be on the sideline. What will you be doing and what will you be feeling?

If I stay out of football completely, I’ll probably be at the game. These are still kids I’ve coached, kids I love … I still teach here. It’s not like I’m leaving with some kind of a sour taste in my mouth — which sometimes happens. So maybe (longtime Bothell coach) Dee Hawkes and I will sit together in the stands. Mike Dale (Pop Keeney Stadium supervisor) painted a seat for Dee Hawkes up in the corner so maybe Dee and I will sit together.

In your letter of resignation it was reported you said Inglemoor football is in a good place. Coming off a 2-7 year, 19-20 the last four years, 11 straight losses to Bothell … what’s good about it?

Couple things there that I would in some ways reject … people talk about 11 straight losses to Bothell, and people in our community here say that, too. Well a lot of people have 11 straight losses to Bothell … What’s Woodinville’s record to Bothell? I think it’s 1-10.(It’s actually 2-9 over the same span.) What’s Redmond’s record to Bothell? So it’s not like losing a lot of games to Bothell means you’re not very good … Bothell’s been very good for a long time.  So I kinda reject that notion. Coming off a tough season I told the kids that a break here, a break there and we could been a 6-3 team. We’re right there, kinda in the middle third but trying to get into the upper third.

Is your youth program where it needs to be?

The youth program I thought got better. It’s getting better. It’s not where it needs to be but it got better, don’t quote me wrong there. Our numbers are up and I thought the quality of our youth coaches came up. In the last two years we made a much more concerted effort to make that program part of our program. Up until then we were very spoiled.

Our two feeder junior highs — Northshore and Kenmore — had really good programs.

When they went away we had this void, where we have a junior program that isn’t where it should or could be … So we got on that right away. It’s not where it needs to be but it’s moving in the right direction. These things don’t turn around overnight.

What will you miss most about coaching?

Competing. That’s what concerns me the most. I’m just gonna have to find an outlet to compete. Personal competition. I think sometimes people don’t realize that when the kids are competing, so are the coaches.

So where in my life do I get to compete? I need to find other outlets. One of my good friends is an avid golfer who plays a lot of tournaments.

So that might be an outlet, because I’m gonna need an outlet of some sort. Competition is too ingrained in me. I can’t just sit on my butt the rest of my life.

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