The amount of care Lyle Patterson showed in the student-athletes he taught and coached stretched far beyond the classroom and gymnasium.
“He treated everyone like family,” Naselle football coach Jeff Eaton said. “If coach Patterson wouldn’t have been there when I was struggling in school as a senior, I probably wouldn’t have been interested in coaching. He gave me my first shot at coaching and has been one of my biggest fans, and I thank him for that.”
Patterson, one of the winningest prep basketball coaches in state history, died Saturday at St. John Medical Center in Longview. He was 84.
Born Jan. 11, 1929 in Spokane, Patterson grew up an orphan.
“I was living with my uncle during the Depression, and Jake Mooberry was my physical education teacher at Rogers High School,” Patterson recalled in a 1996 Daily News story. “He went out of his way to treat me well, and that made an impression on me. When my family split up, I had an older brother who went to college and was a teacher and coach in Michigan, and he invited me to move in with him and finish high school.”
Patterson finished high school in South Haven, Mich., and spent four years in the Air Force as a gunner for the 30th Bombardment Squadron, 19th Bombardment Group, fighting in the United Nations coalition against communist North Korea. In 1951, he shot down a Russian MiG-15 fighter jet from the skies above the Korean peninsula to earn a Distinguished Flying Cross, which he received in 1998.
After his discharge, Patterson returned to college in LaCrosse, Wisc. After graduation, he married his wife, Elaine, on Aug. 19. 1955. He took a teaching assignment in Decatur, Mich., later that year, and became a junior high football and basketball coach. The Pattersons later moved to Coloma, Mich., High School, where he coached football, basketball and baseball. After teaching and coaching in Michigan for seven years, they moved to Naselle.
“We were looking for a football coach and a math teacher when we hired Lyle Patterson in 1962,” former Naselle superintendent Dick Grabenhorst told The Daily News in 2005. “I called him up and liked the sound of his voice, so we hired him. When we later needed a boys basketball coach, he said he wanted to fill the vacancy, and in his first year he took the team to the state tournament for the first time in 10 years.
“What impressed me most about Lyle was he wanted his players to look, act and play like gentlemen.”
Patterson began coaching basketball during the 1965-66 season when he took over for LeRoy Nelson. He later became athletic director, and assumed the posts of principal, vocational and programs director, and coached football and baseball.
Patterson led the Comets to three league championships and a state title in football in 1968, and had a 100-25 record coaching baseball which included four league titles, but it was his success coaching basketball which put Naselle on the map. In his 32 campaigns on the Comets’ bench, Patterson compiled a 623-228 record, ranking him fourth all-time in victories in state prep coaching history. His teams qualified for district every year, and they won 13 league titles, 15 district crowns and placed at state 18 times including five appearances in the state championship game.
Patterson retired from Naselle in 1997. He was inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2002.