Jason Evans guided the Kentlake baseball team to a historic finish this season. And did so despite the loss of his father, Dale Evans, in mid-April.
But there were plenty of other impressive coaching performances throughout Covington and Maple Valley this past school year.
Below is a look at a handful of others who were in the running for The Reporter’s Coach of the Year honors.
RUSS HAYDEN, TAHOMA BASEBALL
If ever a coach gets the most from his players, it’s Russ Hayden.
Tahoma’s longtime leader graduated most of his top talent from a year ago, including five Division I signees. The Bears weren’t even selected in the preseason coaches’ poll to make the playoffs.
But Hayden has turned Tahoma High into a virtual baseball factory. As always, the veteran coach of 16 years churned out another winner, guiding the Bears to a share of the South Puget Sound League North Division title and a third straight state berth.
Tahoma went on to post a solid 16-7 overall record and help Hayden earn his 200th coaching victory, which he accomplished on April 18 with a 9-8 win against Kentridge.
AARON RADFORD, KENTWOOD SOCCER
Maybe they ought to pick Radford’s teams to finish somewhere other than first place every season. That’s what happened this school year. Last fall, perennial power Tahoma was the choice to win the SPSL North Division title. But after an early-season loss to the Bears, Kentwood went on an 8-0-1 streak to close out the league schedule, finishing at 10-1-3 and edging Tahoma by one point for the division title. The Conquerors went all the way to the Class 4A state quarterfinals before their season ended. This spring, all of the talk before the boys season kicked off was about Jefferson. But Kentwood beat the Raiders twice to win the division title with a 9-3-2 record and 29 points, two better than TJ. The Conquerors then scored a 3-1 victory against Tahoma in the district playoffs, their first win against the Bears in 10 games, dating back five years. In so doing, they punched their first ticket to state since 2002.
SCOTT SIMMONS, KENTLAKE GIRLS BASKETBALL
Though Kentlake’s girls basketball team didn’t advance to the state tournament, Simmons delivered what likely was his finest coaching performance.
Kentlake entered the season with heavy hearts as teammate and friend Carly Stowell passed away in the previous April from an acute cardiac arrhythmia while playing for her AAU team in North Carolina.
Simmons, who proved coaches do considerably more than teach X’s and O’s, organized the Carly Stowell Winter Classic tournament at Kentlake in late December. Before the Falcons were to play Foss in the second of two opening-night games, Simmons delivered an emotionally-stirring speech to a mostly-filled gymnasium. As the season progressed, he was as much a counselor and friend to his pupils as he was a coach.
Kentlake lost leading scorer Maggie Henley in early January to a season-ending injury, but Simmons still managed to guide this group to a 12-13 overall record along with berths in the league and district tournaments.
KYLE JONES, KENTLAKE SOCCER
For 10 years, the last game of the regular season was always the last game of the season period for the Falcons’ boys soccer team.
That all changed this spring. With Jones in his first year at the coaching helm, the Falcons started quickly, survived some bumps along the way, and nailed down the program’s first-ever postseason berth. Kentlake wound up with a 7-4-3 record and 24 points in SPSL North Division play, enough to claim the fourth and final playoff spot.
The Falcons fell short in a shootout against Emerald Ridge in the SPSL playoffs, with the Jaguars winning the penalty-kick tiebreaker, 2-1 after the teams went scoreless through 80 minutes of regulation play and 10 minutes of overtime. That ended Kentlake’s season at 8-5-4. But Jones loses just four seniors off of this year’s team, which means his team likely will be counted among the playoff contenders when next spring arrives.