Islander boys basketball coach Ed Pepple retires after 49 years

Ed Pepple - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Ed Pepple
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

Mercer Island High School boys basketball coach and Island icon Ed Pepple officially announced his retirement after 42 years of coaching at Mercer Island High School, effective Friday at 1 p.m.

“I actually made the decision after last year,” said Pepple, who has won 952 games and four state titles, becoming the basketball coach with the most wins in state history.

“It’s been long enough. It’s time to let someone else run the show. And I am not Brett Favre,” he said, referring to NFL quarterback Brett Favre, who has announced his retirement three times.

“It was hard not to get emotional,” said Mercer Island assistant principal Craig Olson. “He has been coaching almost as long as I have been alive. We will never see a coach like this again.”

Pepple said that the process has been cerebral and a year in the making.

“It has not been emotional at all,” said Pepple. “I just wanted to do it and do it the right way.”

The decision was kept so secret that the majority of his family did not find out until recently.

“Not even my family knew this year,” said Pepple. “I didn’t want to detract from the 2009 team. I have some other stuff I want to do, and it was just time.”

Pepple said that the decision came after last season, when 11 seniors graduated. He added that he did not want to leave the next coach with an entirely new group of players with no experience or respect from other teams, among other reasons.

“I wanted to try and make those kids’ senior year as good as I could,” said Pepple of the 2008 season.

The longtime coach is a member of four coaching honoraries, including the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

Pepple’s dedication to his players has led many of them to return to Mercer Island and coach on his staff. Juanita High School coach Jeff Patrick is a former Mercer Island High School basketball player and has coached against Pepple for years.

“Obviously, he is one of the most successful coaches in history,” said Patrick, who graduated from MIHS in 1984. “He has had a big impact on so many of his players’ lives. It is evident by how many want to come back and be a part of the program and basketball in general.”

Pepple’s impact on his players was felt long after high school. For every year that he coached, his teams averaged two players who went on to play in college.

Patrick Frost, Ron Cohn and Gavin Cree were all MIHS grads and coaches on Mercer Island’s staff this season. Pepple said that Cree is the only one of his current assistant coaches that he has heard will apply for the head coaching position.

“I think that he will definitely apply,” said Pepple, who is 76 and more than 300 wins ahead of the next closest boys basketball coach in Washington state history. “He has made the decision to go back to school to teach, and he is ready for it. I think he’ll do a great job, wherever he goes.”

Some of the most successful players who Pepple has coached are former NBA center Steve Hawes and current NBA Developmental League coach for the Austin Toros, Quin Snyder.

Editor’s note: The Reporter will run a special retrospective on Pepple’s career in next week’s issue.

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