COULEE DAM, Wash. – (February 9) The room was packed with well wishers, family, friends and former players of Coach Wallace “PeeWee” Pleasants at the Community Church in Coulee Dam, WA for a surprise party, honoring the longtime coach. A dinner from Longhorn Barbecue was served to those in attendance. It was an evening of good food and sharing laughs and memories of PeeWee’s 12-year’s at the helm as the Lake Roosevelt Lady Raiders basketball coach.
After everyone made it through the line for dinner, a video of highlights was played that did its best to compress 12 years into a little less than 20 minutes. The video began with “coach; noun. 1. a passionate, dedicated individual who unlocks hidden potential and maximizes a team’s performance by believing, encouraging and developing.”
The first song on the playlist was Metallica’s Enter Sandman and showed the girls from his various teams in games, posing for team pictures. The pictures were brushstrokes of his career, his players painting the picture of how he saw the game and the best way for them to reach for team success. Many of the young ladies in the Raiders uniforms are now adults with children of their own.
Jaci Gross had the honor of summarizing PeeWee’s career, and it was her that recommended him for the position when she left the post vacant. It all began in 2010 and would last for 12 seasons. He would amass a record of 153-96. The Lady Raiders were once ranked 162 out of 190 teams in the 2B classification; when he stepped down as head coach, they would be #7.
There were so many people that were involved in his career as head coach: the players, the parents, the fans, for starters. There was longtime friend and Colfax coach, Corey Baerlocher, who would speak about his relationship with PeeWee. The list of friends, helpers and mentors is long, and their parts in his coaching tenure were carved individually and he fit them together in a way that became an expression of Lady Raiders Basketball. It was the stats, thank you Shelly and Verna; AAU Assistant Coaches, Marty and Hector; Lisa and Sheila in Administration; Bus Drivers, Stephanie and Chip; son and grandson, Matt and Roman.
PeeWee began coaching his son Matt’s AAU team. They went from one game at a time, to “Losing’s no fun when you never win.” His team lost their first game, 68-8. He was ejected from a game, kicked out of the gym in another. The hardships along the way began to sound like music in the evening’s recital, each a musical note that plays in their memories like songs of basketball they composed, “the epitome of what the heart and soul of basketball is about.”
“Peewee built strong relationships with other coaches throughout the league and the state and believed in working together and always put the representation of the school, community and tribe at the forefront,” Jaci said, punctuating the room with inflection. She expressed her personal thanks to him, for his hours to the youth: teaching by example, work ethic, integrity, self-respect, determination, tenacity, and how to be resilient and overcome any obstacles thrown their way. The room broke into applause for his body of work.
Andy Joseph and Darnell Sam presented him with a Pendleton blanket to honor him for his work in the community and with Tribal members. Butch Stagner and Shannon Thomas from the School Board presented PeeWee, Matt and Roman with long-sleeve t-shirts.
Coach Corey Baerlocher met PeeWee at the State B Tournament in 2009. They had just beat DeSelles and gave up 40 points to the opposing coach’s daughter. PeeWee hollered at him a few times, and he tried to ignore him until PeeWee called him by his name. He expressed that he was intimidated by him. He approached him so that his daughter could play AAU ball with him. It was “a friendship which developed into a brotherhood and a family. And I always knew I could contact PeeWee and say, can you help me out?” He saw him walk the walk, and was relating the impact PeeWee has had, and would have, in the future, on the community. He thanked him for being a confidant and sending kids to him he could coach.
PeeWee explained his coaching style and career as the last speaker of the night. “I pushed them hard to be good, and work hard at everything that you do.” He learned a lot from them, starting out as rigid, then learning to have fun. They were his introduction to coaching. When he started coaching the girls, he ran into a problem in the style of coaching that didn’t work with them. “You can yell and scream at a boy, it’s in one ear, out the other; with a girl, they remember.”
He had a lot of fun, learning from the boys and girls, the nuances of coaching. He made lots of friends, even though he admits that he didn’t smile all the time. Little things aren’t always visible behind the scenes. When he started, the only fans showing up in the stands were the families. Once they got some wins, they got a crowd, “people showing up to see us. We used to use that to our advantage, too.” His players made his life beautiful. The girls program was there for him when his mother passed away. As a salute, a statement, an expression of his time as Coach, he thanked everyone in the room, “I’ve got nothing but love for Lake Roosevelt.”
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