Irish girls coach has no plans to retire

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WALLA WALLA - Tim Duncan has been a coach all of his adult life.

And the veteran DeSales girls basketball coach doesn't see that changing any time soon, even though the younger of his two daughters, Caitlin, played her final game in an Irish uniform last weekend at the Class 2B state tournament in the Spokane Arena.

"I'm going to hang around for another five or six years," Duncan said earlier this week from a sheltered area at Borleske Stadium as he watched raindrops pelt the freshly-cut baseball diamond. When he's not coaching basketball, Duncan is the maintenance supervisor at the stadium, a position he's held for the past 15 years.

"That's my plan, anyway," he added. "As long as they'll have me that long."

There's no chance anyone at DeSales is eager to see Duncan depart the coaching ranks. The 1976 DeSales graduate has been in charge of the Irish girls program for the past 15 seasons, and all he's done is deliver 10 league championships, a district championship in 2002 and five Class B state tournament appearances.

Duncan called the district championship "one of the true highlights" of his Irish tenure, but a fifth-place state trophy in 2005 and an eighth-place finish the following year have to be right up there. And so, too, does a 41-game league winning streak that began in 2003 and was part of seven consecutive Blue Mountain Conference championship seasons.

But even though he didn't come right out and say it, Duncan's No. 1 highlight has been the opportunity to coach his daughters.

Nicole was a four-year Irish starter who graduated in 2007. She played two seasons at Walla Walla Community College and now attends Eastern Washington University.

Caitlin - a Class B all-state selection as a junior, an all-state tournament selection last week and the all-time scoring leader at DeSales with 1,323 points - is most likely headed for WWCC in the fall, her father said.

"They are my two all-time favorite players to coach," Duncan said. "I have to say that. And right behind them are a lot of other really wonderful girls."

Some coaches have experienced difficulty coaching their own children. Duncan claims otherwise.

"I think it's been good," he said. "I have appreciated my kids' effort in our program, and I am wonderfully proud of everything they have accomplished.

"In some ways it has probably been more difficult for them because I expected so much. I look back and think, ‘wow,' I hope I did it right. Sometimes I wonder, but they assure me that I did."

The secret, Duncan said, is to separate the two roles.

"We never brought it home," Duncan said. "At home, it was a father-daughter relationship. When we were on the court, it was coach and player."

Perhaps that's the product of a 32 years in the coaching ranks.

Duncan, 52, who played basketball briefly at Eastern Washington University and baseball at Whitman College, began his coaching career as a 20-year-old in charge of the Rotary Pony League baseball team of 13-14-year-olds. He did that for 10 years.

His coaching resume also includes a two-year stint as the head baseball coach at DeSales, three years as the head baseball coach at Wa-Hi and an assistant football coaching position at DeSales during Dave Curtis' head coaching tenure in the late 1970s and early '80s. And he also coached for several years as an Irish baseball assistant under Kim Cox.

Duncan broke into the basketball coaching ranks in 1992 as Mike Michels' assistant coach with the DeSales boys team. He did that for two years before switching to girls basketball as Jim Moyer's assistant coach at DeSales.

"I really wanted to be a head basketball coach, and Jim wanted to get someone in before he retired," Duncan recalled. "I really saw it as the only opening that was coming up where I could be the head coach."

And, he admitted, the fact that he had two young daughters - Nicole was born in 1988, Caitlin three years later - may have swayed him.

Moyer stepped down following the 1995 season, Duncan took over in 1996 and the rest is history. But there's more to be written.

"The kids keeps me young," Duncan said of his decision to continue coaching at DeSales. "I love being around them, helping to mould them.

"Besides, I am a highly competitive person, and coaching gets those competitive juices flowing. I enjoy the competition and teaching the kids how to compete."

And even though the Irish lose four seniors to graduation, Duncan thinks the program is a strong position. Junior Erin Giusti and sophomore Annie Higgins are returning starters next season, and sophomores Stephanie Ferrel, Chantel Blanc and Claire Konen along with freshman Ali Zander all saw significant minutes in reserve roles this year.

And there is a load of talent waiting in the wings.

"I am really excited about our incoming freshmen," Duncan said of this year's eighth-grade team. "There's some size there, and some good guards.

"And the all plan to play next year. After a few years where our numbers were down, we should be up to 20-to-21 players next year.

"And there's a big seventh-grade class behind them and a big and talented sixth-grade class. As long as this continues to be fun, I want to continue doing it for the next five or six years."

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