On Thursday, the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association will induct the late Toivo Piippo into its hall of fame.
News surrounding the banquet in Spokane will help the rest of the Northwest gain a better appreciation for the man referred to by many as "The Grandfather of Richland basketball," who died on Aug. 4, 2003.
The Piippo family learned of the honor earlier this spring. Toivo's induction marks the first time an assistant coach will be inducted.
"Ray Stein will be accepting Toivo's Hall of Fame Basketball Coaches Induction on behalf of all the players, students and community," son Steve Piippo wrote. "Ray lives in Spokane and is a Central Washington Sports Hall of Fame inductee and Richland High School Wall of Fame inductee and former WSU basketball star."
Toivo Pippio was a member of the remarkable "Tall Firs" squad -- the University of Oregon's men's basketball team that won the first NCAA national championship in 1939. But his most important contributions came during World War II when he he piloted 67 combat missions in B-26 bombers. Among the many awards he received was the Distinguished Flying Cross.
In 1951, he landed a teaching job at Richland's new Chief Joseph Junior High School and soon began opening the gym on Saturdays and holidays. By 1954, he had created the Richland summer basketball program.
Piippo never left for the high school ranks, staying at Chief Jo until he retired in 1981. However, he influenced many Bombers, including Art Dawald, Frank Teverbaugh, Phil Neill and Jim Castleberry and players such as C.W. Brown and Stein.
Remarkably, more than 1,000 people petitioned to get the hardwood floor at Chief Jo named "Toivo Piippo Gym."
Thursday's induction will be staged at Whitworth University in Spokane.
"This is an honor for all those kids who came to the Chief Jo Gym on Saturday mornings, played basketball at Chief Jo, all students and the tradition and foundation of Richland basketball," Steve Piippo noted.