Q&A: Curtis Eccles, basketball, baseball coach

How much has the job changed since you took over in 2006? What has stayed the same? What are some of the things you’d like to change and what are some of the things you’ve learned on the job?

One of the major changes that had occurred since taking over in 2006 at Hoquiam High School as a basketball coach is the opportunity for our student-athletes to participate in multiple sports during the summer. Fortunately, at Hoquiam, as a coaching staff we have been able to accommodate our summer schedules so the multiple sport athlete can participate in most of his practices or games. With our basketball summer league, tournaments, and team camp, there are many occasions we do not have a full team due to other sports our players are involved in. Another change since I’ve been here includes the WIAA format of the state tournament. Two years ago, when our team made it to the regional tournament at Glacier Peak High School (north of Seattle), the atmosphere wasn’t even close to our Friday night games during league. Due to financial reasons, we had no band; the crowd was minimal, and the atmosphere didn’t feel like the “state tournament” it once used to be like when 16 teams went to Yakima to play in the Sundome.

Also, the doubleheaders with the boys and girls’ teams are another change that has occurred within the last three years. Unfortunately, one team is always left out from the fan support and the band during the 5:45 p.m. start.

Although there had been many changes over the course of my time since I’ve been here, one of the things that had always stayed the same is the type of players we have at HHS. There are many players that just work harder than others, and there are a few that it takes a bit more motivation for them to get to where we want them to be. Although the players change, many of their attitudes and work ethic have not. Many of them put in the extra time to be the champion they want themselves and their teammates to become.

If there is anything I would like to see changed it would be the WIAA format of the state tournament which would include 16 teams from each classification going to Yakima and going back to the boys and girls having their games on separate nights.

What are some of the best moments you’ve had at Hoquiam as a coach? How have you and your staff been able to keep Hoquiam basketball at the level it has been over the past several years?

The best moments I’ve had as a coach at Hoquiam High School include the triple overtime win over Toledo in 2010, 69-65, to advance to the district championship game. The game included three of our regular starters fouling out and role players such as Caleb Brydon, Cole Smith, and Ronnie Espedal stepping up to win the game, along with starters Jerid Ronquillo and Bryan Irion. Also, the dramatic and emotional victory at Onalaska last year, 55-53, the day after our community lost a dear friend and athlete. Other favorite moments include running into past players and talking about the fun times they once had as Grizzlies, which include summer tournaments, camps, games, and any time you beat your rival, Aberdeen, which is always tossed into the great memory category.

Without question, one of the major factors of our success at Hoquiam is due to our AAU programs. Our AAU programs begin in the fifth grade, with some years even forming at the fourth grade level. With the help of Mark Maxfield for a number of years, and parents volunteering their time to coach these teams, our success is directed from the amount of time they put in to help our young athletes learn the fundamentals of the game. Along with the summer camps we put on in the summer, the amount of games our players participate in the summer, also contributes to our success. Also, I believe our school spirit is one of the reasons our team does so well. During a 7:30 p.m. game, you can look at our student section, our band and our crowd, which help motivate our players to play at the next level and has helped our success overall. In addition, with our coaching staff, Keith Reynvaan, Ed Dawson, Neal Fisher, and for two years, Jeff Niemi, and this year, Wayne Ross, the knowledge of the game of basketball between all of us is more than 100 years combined, which is another reason our program is at the level it is right now.

You are the second Hoquiam head coach (HHS volleyball Christine Nelson is also GHC women’s basketball coach) who has taken on a second coaching job at Grays Harbor College — in baseball. What prompted you to take the job, especially since you are busy right now with basketball? How much recruiting have you been able to do so far?

Although I’m busy as the head basketball coach, coaching baseball is also a passion of mine. As a head baseball coach at Woodland High School (2004-2006) in addition to being the head basketball coach, I found time to be able to do both. While taking the basketball position in 2006, I stayed in coaching baseball as an assistant at Grays Harbor College for three years. Although I didn’t jump on board until the end of the basketball season, which was roughly three weeks into baseball, I knew the kind of time commitment it entailed. Over the last three years as a baseball assistant at Hoquiam, being a head baseball coach again was something I’ve always thought about doing again. When the opportunity to become the head baseball coach at Grays Harbor College, it intrigued me, and the more family and administration support I received, the more of the reality it was for me to accept the challenge and make Grays Harbor baseball one that other colleges will look up to. Along with the help of my assistant coaches, I decided to accept the challenge.

Fortunately, as a previous high school coach, I have been able to make contacts with several other coaches in the baseball world to help recruit the kind of student-athletes Grays Harbor College needs to achieve a winning program. I have been in contact and have written several letters to prospective players that show interest in Grays Harbor to play baseball. This is also a strong group of assistant coaches — Kelly Campbell, Beau Beck and Brandon Siano — who are also helping in recruiting players and they are just as competitive as I am to bring in the players we need to compete in the NWAACC.

Along with the strong freshmen group we already have at Grays Harbor and in addition of several other players I have stayed in contact through out the last several months, Grays Harbor baseball will be extremely competitive for years to come. In addition, we have several players right here on the Harbor who could easily help Grays Harbor baseball complete at the highest level.

Is this a new trend for coaching at the local/regional level — coaching one sport at one school and then coaching another sport at another school or college? Or, is this just a chance opportunity that may not come up very often?

I believe it entails two reasons. One: it could be the lack of qualified applicants for that particular coaching position. Many districts may not have the qualified coach in their building; therefore, they must look outside the district to find the coach they are looking for. In most cases, I believe this is the case; however, another reason could be the opportunity. In my case, I had the support to move forward and coach a sport that I have always wanted to coach along with basketball and that is baseball. When the opportunity knocks, and the support is there, you go for it. While that opportunity may not come up, you don’t want to have any regrets once you pass up the chance to do what you want to do. I didn’t want this opportunity to pass me by.

What is one of your New Year’s resolutions?

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to make sure all of my student-athletes get the opportunity to play at the next level. Whether it’s a basketball player wanting to pursue his dream to play basketball at the next level, or a baseball player wanting to go on and continue to play at a four-year university. I must keep in contact with other college coaches for them to have the opportunity to play at the next level; whether it’s basketball or baseball.