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Schumacher induction sparks golden memories

In 21 seasons of coaching high school basketball, Don Schumacher’s teams compiled a 322-178 record for a .644 winning percentage.

But Schumacher was never about the victories.

He was all about the kids.

“And I was always blessed with good kids,” he said.

While Schumacher coached in both Alaska and Oregon, he spent most of his time, 21 years, at Kamiakin.

On Tuesday, at the Kennewick Red Lion, he’ll be inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The banquet and ceremony begin at 6 p.m.

My favorite Schumacher story involves Scot Pollard, the 7-footer who played at Kansas and then had a long NBA career.

Pollard had been attending Torrey Pines High School in the San Diego area when his father died in 1992.

Pollard was the baby of the family and one of his older brothers, 6-foot-10 Alan Pollard, was a member of the Tri-City Chinook of the Continental Basketball Association.

Alan felt it was necessary to move his mother and Scot up to the Tri-Cities, and he called Schumacher to tell him his “little brother” was going to attend Kamiakin and he wanted to play basketball.

Schumacher had just had his last team lose in the state championship game the previous season, and he wasn’t really looking for another player because a number of his guys were returning. But he said OK.

Imagine his surprise when Scot showed up.

I was asked by my boss to cover Kamiakin’s opener because our main prep writer was covering the state football championships and the Chinook had the night off.

I show up to watch the Braves play Central Valley, and in the first minute, point guard Tony Schumacher steals the ball and heads off for a breakaway layin.

But he slows down and stops at the top of the key, then tosses the ball straight up in the air. Out of nowhere Pollard grabs the ball in midair and slam dunks it with ferocity.

There was a silence for a split second, then the entire gymnasium went ballistic. As Tony Schumacher ran back upcourt, he held his arms out to the crowd as if to say “Look at my new toy!”

That Kamiakin team would not win the state championship. It would lose to Federal Way in the state tournament, a team led by Michael Dickerson, who also would play in the NBA.

But for Don Schumacher, that was OK.

It was never about the victories. It was the journey with his group of kids.

“There’s no doubt, the thing I liked was working with the kids,” he said.

That included his own sons, Lane, Todd and Tony, whom he treated like any other players.

“One of the things that was nice is not only did I get to coach them, but they were good kids and good people,” said Schumacher. “They got along with the other players, and that made it easier.”

Then there is his wife, Susie.

“There is no doubt you have to have a really good mate to allow you to do some of the things we do,” said Schumacher. “And with our three boys I tried to do a lot of things.”

Including starting a summer program, which helped build the program.

It also helped playing in the Big Nine Conference.

“The Big Nine was always such a tough league,” he said. “There are such good coaches in this league. Walla Walla kind of controlled the ball. Richland and Pasco had a great environment we played in. You’d go to the gym, and it was always full.”

Schumacher retired last month as Kamiakin’s athletic director, and he’s been a little nervous about it.

“I don’t have any hobbies at all,” he said. “I loved work. I do a little bit of golf. There’s no fishing and hunting.”

It’s good he has got family right now.

“With nine grandkids locally, that’ll keep me busy,” he said. “We’ll do a little traveling, but just short stuff. I think I’ll try to get better at golf.”

If he attacks it like he did coaching, he could be great to have in a scrambler.