Truth be told, Matt Logie had his eye on the Whitworth basketball program long before he was hired in May 2011 to lead the Pirates.
A full year before he interviewed for his current job, Logie interviewed for another head coaching job at a Northwest Conference school – a job he ultimately could not see himself accepting.
“I was on my way back to Pennsylvania and my (assistant coach) job at Lehigh University,” he said. “When I got to the airport, I called my wife, Julia, and told her about the interview. I told her then that it was too bad the guy at Whitworth was never going to leave because I though that would be the ideal school for us.”
A year later he was leading the Pirates into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III tournament.
Now in his second season coaching 11th-ranked Whitworth, Logie is glad to be back in the Pacific Northwest. His collegiate playing career at Lehigh saw him become one of the top scorers in school history, and launched a coaching career as an assistant with the Mountain Hawks sandwiched around a year at Kent State.
“I’ve had people come up to me and ask me why I would come all the way out here to Spokane – ‘You’re an East Coast guy,’ they say,” Logie laughs. “I have to tell them that I’m really a Northwest guy and that I have deep roots here.”
Logie’s grandfather is perhaps the taproot, and the connection Logie has with Ed Pepple is a foundation in his life and career.
Logie grew up on Mercer Island, where Pepple was already a living legend.
Pepple spent 42 years coaching the boys basketball team at Mercer Island High School, winning four state championship trophies in eight state championship game appearances. Four times Pepple was voted Washington State Coach of the Year and in 1998 he was honored as National Coach of the Year. Last month he was inducted into the Washington Sports Hall of Fame – the ninth Hall of Fame into which Pepple is enshrined. After 52 years on the bench, Pepple’s career win total of 952 was the most in state history by some 300 victories at the time of his retirement.
But to a young grandson, Ed Pepple was more even than all that. He was an adoring, attentive grandpa.
“Shortly after Matt was born, his dad decided he wasn’t ready to be a father,” Pepple said. “Matt has a good relationship with his dad now, and he even looks a lot like his father. But when he was little, I used to watch him waiting for his dad to come see him. A lot of times, he didn’t show up, but I made sure I was always there for him.”
“My grandpa has been a father figure in my life,” Logie said. “He’s influenced my life in so many ways.”
Pepple knows what it feels like to not have a father around. Perhaps the most telling thing grandfather and grandson have in common is the fact that each adopted the surname of a stepfather.
Born Edward Post in Denver on July 22, 1932, Pepple’s early years were spent in and around Roundup and Red Lodge, Mont., with an abusive father. His mother escaped the abuse and moved with her young son to Seattle, where she met and married Raymond Pepple, and the family began a vagabond life.
Ed and Shirley Pepple, married in 1955, planted deep roots on Mercer Island with their four children. Sons Terry and Kyle both played basketball for the Islanders and daughters Jody and Jill were involved and supportive. Jill Logie was a cheerleader at MI and went on to be the school’s cheerleading adviser.
One of the first things Pepple did upon his arrival on Mercer Island was begin a program for youngsters he dubbed “Little Dribblers,” and he enlisted his varsity players, including future Washington Husky and NBA player Steve Hawes, to help coach future generations of Islander basketball players
Pepple made his grandson the team’s ballboy when Logie was 5.
“I think Matt wanted to be a coach even then,” Pepple recalls, his face breaking into a broad smile.
Logie literally grew up with Mercer Island basketball. Along the way he helped the program win two of Pepple’s four state championships. As a sophomore, he helped the Islanders beat Mount Vernon for the 1997 State 4A title. As a senior he was a key player in winning the 1999 State 3A title over O’Dea.
Pepple says the relationship he enjoys with his grandson is as close as two family members could possibly be, but he refrains from offering unsolicited advice.
“When he asks, I tell him what I think,” he said. “But part of the process is making your own mistakes and finding what works for you. Some of the best lessons I learned came from playing for coaches who showed me what not to do.”
Logie understands that process, but also recognizes how lucky he’s been thus far in his career.
“The culture that my grandpa built at Mercer Island was incredibly successful and I grew up in that culture,” he said. “At Lehigh, we only had one season where we struggled and that was with a very young lineup. The rest of the time I was there, we had that same kind of culture.
“To come to Whitworth, where that culture was already in place, has been incredibly fortunate for me. It’s a whole lot easier to keep that culture alive than it is to create and grow it.”
There are few Whitworth games where Pepple is not sitting in the Fieldhouse stands, directly behind his grandson. He even makes more than a few road trips and was with the Pirates on their three-game swing through Southern California. While his eyes take in every nuance of the game, the proud smile never leaves his face.
At a retirement celebration honoring Pepple, Logie flew home to deliver this message:
“This program is the story of my childhood,” he told that audience, “from being ballboy at age 5, to coming up through Little Dribs, being embedded in the travel, the camps, meeting NBA players, pep rallies, Thanksgiving retreats and other Islander and basketball inner sanctums.
“Thanks, Grandpa, for providing me with all the opportunities, for being there for me in times of trouble, for just talking hoops and teaching me about life. You believed in me, guided me and taught me how to be a man. I love you.”
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