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State 2B: Sharing more than stories

Fri., Feb. 29, 2008, midnight

The stories, no matter how often told or precise the details, can’t duplicate the experience.

Wellpinit coach Billy Flett Sr. tried.

He told his basketball players that when they woke up Wednesday morning, grabbed their gym bags and headed for the Spokane Arena to play in the state tournament, it would hit them. It would hit them again when they pulled back the curtain and saw the floor for the first time.

But that was nothing like stepping on the floor for the first time as a player.

The coach’s father, Bill Flett, told them about the atmosphere, bright lights, big crowds and noise.

None of the stories did justice to the experience of playing in the state tournament, not even if the stories were coming from your father, who played there, or your grandpa, who coached there.

“They talked about it all the time,” Wellpinit senior T.J. Flett said Thursday morning. “I heard how much fun my dad had, I heard it from grandpa. They talked about the atmosphere. When I got on the court my heart was pumping. It was exciting.

“Now that I’m part of it, I have stories I can tell my kids in 20 years.”

Just like his dad – and coach – Billy Sr., who played on the first and last Wellpinit team to make it to the State B tournament 27 years ago, and his grandfather, Bill, who coached that team.

“I basically heard from grandpa,” said sophomore Cody Flett, whose late father, Kip, once a Panorama League MVP, was on that team with his brother. “He said it was awesome, the best feeling. He talked about feeling nervous when you walked into the gym. Walking into the Arena, I got goosebumps.”

The Fletts are Wellpinit basketball, or at least a big part of it.

Bill Flett coached sons Billy Sr. and Kip when they played in the Coliseum in 1981; Billy Sr. is coaching sons T.J. and Billy Jr., a junior, and nephew Cody in the State 2B Tournament.

That is just the name connection.

“Over three-quarters of the team is related by blood,” Billy Sr. said. “In 1981, out of the 12 players, 11 were actually related.”

Back then, no one expected it woul be 27 years between tournament apearances. “They’ve been at the door,” Bill said. “A couple of years they were one basket away (from making the state tournament). This year the ball happened to fall in.

“I’m proud of them, they worked so darn hard. Win, lose or draw, the whole community is proud.”

And like 27 years ago, it’s father coaching son.

“It’s hard, he knows me,” Billy Jr. said. “He’s hard because as a parent he knows what you can do.”

T.J. said, “I love playing for my dad, it’s great. I get to know him better. He’s trying to share his knowledge with me.”

Even Cody said, “It’s fun. He’ll yell at us, he expects the best from us. I wouldn’t want another coach.”

And back in the day?

“When I was playing for my dad, with my brother Kip, I’d listen to dad and go play,” Billy Sr. said. “Kip, he was one of the best players around, they had clashes, like me and my boys.

“I try to step away and say I can’t treat my boys any different than the rest of the team. But I take it home and they’re with me 24/7. My wife had to tell me not to forget they’re your sons.”

The coach has another son, 8-year-old Brandon, “but I can’t envision coaching that long. There are so many good coaches in the stands, I want to be one.”

Besides, coaching can be stressful.

The Redskins have faced season-ending games numerous times in the last few weeks and yet are playing Northwest Christian-Lacey today at 11 a.m. to one-up their forefathers and get to the trophy round Saturday.

They stayed alive by beating rival Reardan on Thursday.

Billy Sr. doesn’t want his players to be satisfied with getting to state once, although Wellpinit drops down next year to 1B, which plays its state tournament in Yakima.

“We don’t have to wait 27 years, let’s start to build a tradition,” he said.

The one tradition already in place is dreams of big buildings, bright lights and large crowds.

“This is where it’s at,” Bill Flett said. “When they play basketball on the blacktop they think about this place.”

Where stories come to life.


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