Ex-GSL coaching great dies

Leukemia claims Robertson

High school basketball in Spokane has had defining figures for every era of its evolution – and Dave Robertson indisputably set the standard in his.

The hall of fame coach, who won a memorable 1981 state championship with Shadle Park, died Monday morning of leukemia. He was 79.

Memorial services will be Monday at 1:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church.

Robertson was a head coach for 20 years in the Greater Spokane League – 16 at Shadle, four at Gonzaga Prep – and won championships in 10 of them. And it wasn’t his style to do it as an underdog.

“He did a great job in instilling confidence in the players,” said Mike Haugen, who assisted Robertson before succeeding him as head coach at Gonzaga Prep. “He wasn’t bashful. He’d say, ‘Yeah, we’ll be the league champions.’ Most of us want to sandbag a little bit, but that wasn’t Dave. ”

Never was that reflected more than in the 1981 Shadle team, the first GSL representative in the title game in 13 years. The Highlanders beat favored Mercer Island 66-65 on a shot by Greg Schmidt that referees ruled beat the buzzer, a call bitterly disputed by the Islanders – to the extent that tournament officials opted against a post-game trophy presentation.

That was the biggest of Robertson’s 399 wins in 555 games, which included stops at Sanford and La Jara, Colo., and Alamogordo, N.M., before he joined the staff at Shadle. He was elected into both the Washington coaches and Inland Northwest halls of fame.

A native of Forrest, N.M., Robertson attended high schools there and in Tucumcari, where he earned all-state honors. He attended the University of New Mexico and Adams State College in Colorado, graduating in 1952.

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