It was a moment any son could appreciate.
The first-year head boys basketball coach at West Valley High School, Jay Humphrey had a special guest at Saturday’s practice session, so he gathered his players around and made an introduction.
“I told the guys that this man was one of the winningest coaches in state history,” he recalled. “And he just happens to be my dad.”
Denny Humphrey won 552 games in 34 seasons as a head basketball coach, 22 of them at Cheney High. He was inducted into the Washington State Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2004.
“My dad is one of those guys who you’d never know just how successful they are because they’ll never tell you,” the proud son said.
And he’d probably be embarrassed if you pointed it out.
“Oh, absolutely!” Humphrey said.
Jay Humphrey has a pretty good coaching pedigree himself. In five seasons at North Central he won a share of the Greater Spokane League title in 1992 and coached two district and one regional qualifying teams. In six seasons at University he led the Titans into the Eastern Regional tournament in 1997.
He left head coaching and eventually became an assistant coach at Shadle Park while his son Zach Humphrey, who graduated in 2008, played for the Highlanders. Humphrey worked as an assistant coach for his longtime friend, Jamie Nilles, at West Valley last season. When Nilles stepped down, Humphrey took the job.
But still, he could use some input from dad.
“I’d love it if my dad would come by and watch our practices and our games,” he said. “I’d love to hear what he has to say about what he sees. I’d love it if he’d come out and be part of our coaching staff: To whatever extent he’d like to be a part of things, I’d love to have him.”
At the moment, Humphrey would love to have a full complement of basketball players.
West Valley’s extraordinary football season has the Eagles playing Ellensburg today at Joe Albi Stadium in a state Class 2A semifinal game between two undefeated teams.
“I know there are people who look at the negative side of a situation like this one,” Humphrey said. “But I think it’s great for everyone to have the football team have this kind of success.
“I didn’t realize that it had been so long since West Valley had had this kind of football success until last year. Sure, you’d like to have your players in here working on the stuff we need them to work on. But these are 16-, 17-, 18-year-old kids and they’re having the time of their lives. It’s a win-win situation and it’s going to carry over.”
The extended fall season did force Humphrey to postpone the team’s scheduled opener against Moscow. That game, originally set for tonight, has been moved to Dec. 9 at West Valley.
Instead, the team will see its first action Monday at East Valley in the Valley Jamboree.
The Eagles had an exceptional summer season – despite having an unsettled coaching situation for the first month.
“I coached the summer program at the same time I was interviewing for the job,” Humphrey said. “It wasn’t until the end of June that I actually got the job, but the kids were great about it. They understood the situation and they were supportive and we had a great summer.
“We started the summer by winning our own tournament and we ended the summer by winning our division of the Gonzaga team camp.”
Humphrey said he’s pleased with his staff. Rick Jones moves up from coaching the West Valley freshmen to become the varsity assistant coach. Mike Hamilton remains as junior varsity coach and former multiple-sport standout Craig McIntyre returns to his alma mater to coach the freshmen.
“I’m relying on Rick a lot because he’s in the building and I’m not,” Humphrey said. “Not being there is a big disadvantage for me, but the staff at University has been so supportive of me and they’re making things work as smoothly as possible and I’m grateful. Hopefully something will open up and I’ll get a chance to work in the building at some point in the future.”
That’s not surprising coming from a coach who has repeatedly called coaching the Eagles “the perfect fit for me.”
“He gave me a handout the other day, something he put together for me and my staff,” Humphrey said. “He told me I could read it or toss it, whatever I wanted to do with it. I told him ‘Dad, after all you’ve done in this game, after all you’ve learned, I think you can pretty well count on the fact that I’m going to give this a read.’
“I think that’s a good first step.”