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Sports >  Idaho basketball

Zac Claus: Idaho athletics ‘left in a better place’ because of Pete Isakson

UPDATED: Sun., Jan. 19, 2020

Idaho interim basketball coach Zac Claus looks on during an Oct. 29, 2019 game against Lewis-Clark State in Moscow, Idaho. (Idaho Athletics / Courtesy)
Idaho interim basketball coach Zac Claus looks on during an Oct. 29, 2019 game against Lewis-Clark State in Moscow, Idaho. (Idaho Athletics / Courtesy)

MOSCOW, Idaho – A postgame press conference following Idaho’s 78-75 loss to Eastern Washington University on Thursday became a platform for another message.

After discussing the game briefly, Vandals interim men’s basketball coach Zac Claus offered some thoughts on the death of UI interim athletics director Pete Isakson at age 48.

“This place was left in a better place because of him,” he said of Isakson. “I was lucky to have him in my life and as a friend.”

Isakson, who died on Tuesday, had a long career as a fund raiser at UI and later Washington State University. He returned to Idaho in 2017 as the associate director for revenue generation. He stepped up from that position in 2018 to lead the department after Rob Spear was fired following allegations from several former UI women athletes that Spear and other university officials did not take seriously enough their complaints of sexual harassment by a former UI football player. Following his tenure as interim director, Isakson became a key fund raiser with UI Advancement in 2019, when new president Scott Green hired Terry Gawlick as athletics director.

While he led UI athletics, in a big move for an interim director, Isakson last July chose Claus to lead the Vandals for a season after Don Verlin was fired following the university’s self-reporting of several alleged NCAA violations in men’s basketball.

“I will be indebted to Pete for trusting me to lead our program this season,” said Claus, who joined the Vandals in 2015 as an assistant on Verlin’s staff.

Claus said he has looked in vain for a silver lining in Isakson’s sudden death, but could find none. The closest thing, he said, is that Isakson’s three children “are old enough to experience what a wonderful man he was.”

A memorial service for Isakson will take place at 11 a.m. Monday at the Church of the Nazarene in Moscow. A gathering will follow at the nearby Latah County Fairgrounds. Those who attend are urged to wear Idaho or Moscow High School colors.

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