Steve Graff isn’t quite sure who nominated him for the Washington Football Coaches Hall of Fame, or that he’s eligible for the honor Saturday in Everett.
“You are either supposed to be dead or retired when you go into the Hall of Fame,” Graff said. “I asked (Chiawana athletic director John Cazier), ‘am I dying soon, or am I fired?’ ”
The answer is neither. His accomplishments as football coach at Pasco and Chiawana high schools speak for themselves.
In 19 seasons coaching in the Pasco school district, Graff has earned four state championships, 11 league titles and 170 victories with just 49 losses. He also led his teams to second-place finishes in 2001 and 2014.
You are either supposed to be dead or retired when you go into the Hall of Fame. I asked ... ‘Am I dying soon, or am I fired?’ Steve Graff
Also going in the Hall of Fame are Othello’s Roger Hoell, Mark Stewart of Mariner and Mark Perry of Snohomish.
Graff, 54, took over at Pasco in 1997 after nine years of being an assistant. He captured seven Big Nine crowns and won three state titles (1998, 2000, 2003) in 12 seasons. His Bulldogs had an impressive 113-25 record.
He was the founding coach when Chiawana opened in 2009 and tacked on four more league titles and a fourth state championship in 2013. In seven seasons, the Riverhawks have a 57-24 record.
“That first year wasn’t much fun because we only had sophomores and juniors,” Graff said. “But since then, we have done all right.”
The move to Chiawana came with a little hesitation, but not for long.
“My kids were in that boundary, so that made it easy for me,” said Graff, who teaches health and fitness at Chiawana. “Everything was brand new, and all my assistants came with me.”
He’ll become one of several coaches in the Hall of Fame with ties to the Mid-Columbia, including J.D. Covington (a 1992 inductee), Ed Troxel (1994), Fran Rish (1997), Rick Stubrud (2002), Dave Braddock (2003), Bob Nielsen (2005), Craig Beverlin (2009) and Tom Moore (2009).
“You have to have good players to be a good coach,” Graff said. “I have had great assistant coaches to work with. I look at it as we did our job. We have done done good things in both places. We are all getting old, though. Two or three of those guys played when I coached at Pasco. Now they have come back and coached for me. I have had a couple of guys leave. Bill Templeton (Kennewick) and Andy Troxel (formerly at Southridge) took off and did good things.”
Of the hundreds of players he has coached, three were his sons: Luc (2011 graduate), Grady (2014, now playing at Central Washington) and Mac (senior at Chiawana).
“It was definitely fun,” Graff said. “Grady’s senior year we won a state championship. He and Mac were on that team. That was pretty neat for all of us. Luc only got to the quarterfinals, and they remind him.”
Graff began his football career at Sunnyside High School under Stubrud. He was a 185-pound quarterback and free safety for the Grizzlies and won several all-league awards
He also was an all-state catcher for the Grizzlies and a point guard on the basketball team.
Graff played two years of football — at strong safety — for Walla Walla Community College. He then transferred to Eastern Washington, where he played outside linebacker for the Eagles as well as two seasons of baseball.
His first coaching job was at WWCC, working with the linebackers. In 1983, he began teaching at Dayton High School, where he was an assistant football coach, assistant girls basketball coach and head softball coach. In 1988, he moved to Pasco to teach biology and P.E.
Graff will be joined at the Hall of Fame induction by his wife, Dana, Grady, Mac and his assistant coaches — Steve Davis, Dave Spray, Joe Carrasco, Robert Reid, Kevin Pedersen, Chad Herron, Scott Bond, Troy Sommerville, Kentin Alford, Mike Clayton, Don Hogue, Robert Booth, Kevin McCallum and Raef Pedersen — and Stubrud.
Luc, who lives in Boise, and daughter Samantha, who is a graduate assistant at University of Wyoming in athletic training, won’t be able to make the trip.