Woolpert joins hoops-centric PC Hall of Fame class

The seeds of Paul Woolpert’s burgeoning career in basketball started here on the Olympic Peninsula.

Despite some struggles on the court with the Peninsula College Pirates, Woolpert — a Sequim High graduate — transitioned into the coaching world and worked in the National Basketball Association before earning four Continental Basketball Association championships and three CBA Coach of the Year honors.

Woolpert joins a basketball-centric group of inductees at Peninsula College’s fifth Pirate Hall of Fame induction ceremony, slated for Saturday, June 3, in the banquet room at The Cedars of Dungeness golf course.

Joining Woolpert is Garrett Abbott, Tony Burke, Tiffany Hoch and the 2011 Pirate men’s basketball team, winners of the Northwest Athletic Conference title.

“This is going to be a great basketball-themed celebration,” said Rick Ross, the college’s associate dean for athletics.

“Our Hall of Fame committee landed on players from the late 1970s, from the re-start of basketball in 1997 and the team that won the first men’s basketball championship of the modern era in 2011.”

Tickets are now on sale for $20 via the Pirate Athletics website (athletics.pencol.edu) under event tickets.

The Pirate Hall of Fame induction happens every other year with this year’s inductees bringing the total to eight teams and 17 individuals.

Coaching track for SHS grad

Woolpert was a multi-sport at Sequim High who came from a basketball rich family: his father Phil won back-to-back NCAA championships as head coach of the University of San Francisco in 1955 and 1956.

Paul’s journey started landed him at Peninsula College in 1979. In two years at Peninsula, Woolpert led the Pirates in scoring and rebounding under new head coach Tim Fryer, through the Pirates struggled in the win-loss column, going 4-21 in 1979-80 and 8-15 in 1980-81.

Woolpert then transferred to the University of Portland, where he got his start in coaching as a student assistant. He became a scout for the Seattle SuperSonics in 1986 and later with the Portland Trailblazers in 1995, where he worked for NBA coaches including Bernie Bickerstaff, K.C. Jones and George Karl.

Woolpert took the head job at the Yakima Sun Kings in 1998 and went on to win three Continental Basketball Association championships and three times was named the association’s top coach.

Woolpert moved to other coaching opportunities in Australia and Los Angeles before returning to Yakima as head coach and general manager in 2017, where he won another championship in 2018.

2011 Pirate men

The 2010-11 Pirates did something no Pirate basketball team had done since 1970: win a championship. And they did it under the direction of first-year coach Lance Von Vogt.

It was a hard-working, tough, gritty team that bought into Von Vogt’s vision of winning a championship and had the talent and heart to accomplish that feat, Ross noted.

The Pirates rode the guard play of Mitrell Clark, Sam Waller and Thad Vinson, as well as the inside play of DeShaun Freeman, Anthony Williams, team captain Jeremiah Johnson and Jerry Johnson, to dispatch the top finishing teams in the tournament.

The path to the championship went through Yakima Valley, who finished fifth, top-ranked Tacoma, who finished fourth, Spokane, who finished third, and they then took the floor at the Toyota Center in Kennewick for a fourth straight day where they defeated Pierce in an 80-76 thriller in the Northwest Athletic Conference championship.

Clutch shooting and a lockdown defense that held opponents to just 65 points per game in the championships paved the way to the title. The Pirates finished 23-7 overall.

Hoch overcomes injuries

After overcoming two ACL reconstructions that plagued her high school career, Hoch was cleared to play for the Pirates, and her grandfather, head coach Curt Bagby, midway through Peninsula’s inaugural season in 1997.

The Pirates had lost all of their non-conference games to that point, but Hoch provided an immediate spark, averaging 14 points and five rebounds per game, and leading the team in three-point shooting; the Pirates went 7-9 in league play.

In her sophomore year, playing with a more balanced roster, Hoch racked up 12 points and four rebounds per game, helping her Pirates to 12 wins in the 1998-99 season.

Following her career at Peninsula, Hoch transferred to Central Washington University where she earned a degree in elementary education. After college, she began a coaching career that spanned high school, junior high and AAU basketball in Montana, where she resides with her husband, former Pirate Kevin Patrick, and their children.

Abbott shines in hoops restart

A Port Angeles High School basketball star, Abbott was on the short list of recruits when Mark Amaral was awarded the job as Peninsula College men’s basketball coach in 1997, restarting a program that was dropped in 1982.

Abbott made history, scoring Peninsula’s first field goal in the season-opening game against Grays Harbor in November of 1997, and he went on to average 18 points and six rebounds per game that year — leading the Pirates to an 11-16 record and 7-9 in league.

In his sophomore year Abbott averaged 18 points a game, taking the Pirates to the brink of the playoffs with a 19-9 record and 8-8 mark in league. He played in the NWAC All-Star Game, where he led all scorers with 25 points.

Abbott went on to play basketball for the University of Alaska Sea Wolves in Anchorage. He completed his playing career at UAA and remained in Alaska for 20 years, staying active in the Alaska and Northwest basketball community.

His work as an executive in the oil industry took Abbott and his family to Houston, Texas, where he coaches youth basketball and baseball year-round.

Burke sparks run at playoffs

Playing for Amaral and alongside Abbott on the resurrected Pirate men’s hoops program, Burke led the team in scoring his freshmen year, averaging 19 points per game. He came back even stronger his sophomore year. The Pirates opened 5-0 and finished non-conference play 11-1.

With Burke and Abbott averaging 40 points a game, and a deep and talented cast of teammates around them, the Pirates were the hottest team in the Northwest Athletic Conference and a sure thing to compete for a title when he went down with a knee injury on Jan. 9, 1999. Without Burke on the floor, the Pirates went 8-8 in league play and fell out of the playoff picture.

He had missed the final 13 games of the season, but still was selected to the North All-Star Team.

Burke went on to play on scholarship at Lewis Clark College in Idaho before returning to his community where he continued to be involved in the sport of basketball, including coaching.

Photo courtesy of Peninsula College
Peninsula College’s 2010-2011 men’s basketball team celebrates an NWAC championship.

Photo courtesy of Peninsula College Peninsula College’s 2010-2011 men’s basketball team celebrates an NWAC championship.