Homecoming will honor former Falcon hoops coach Knaplund

John Knaplund will be inducted into the South Whidbey Wall of Fame on Friday.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
John Knaplund will be inducted into the South Whidbey Wall of Fame on Friday.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

CLINTON — Just like a classic coach, John Knaplund wants this moment to be about the team.

His impact on South Whidbey High School and the boys basketball program inspired the South Whidbey Athletic Boosters Club and the Wall of Fame coordinator to honor Knaplund this Friday.

“This reward is for the former players as much as it is for me,” Knaplund said.

Sure, he ran a disciplined squad in the style of his favorite coach: UCLA basketball coaching legend John Wooden. He also knows he needed the group of 28 boys — now men — to amass a 38-12 record over four seasons at the then new South Whidbey High School.

“I think it’s a great honor,” Knaplund said. I’m very honored by it.”

Knaplund resigned as the Falcons’ coach in 1985 because he had to focus on his contracting business.

At 74, he’s still working, though now he is focused on a new home in Clinton that is five years in the making.

“I just couldn’t afford to keep giving up that much time,” Knaplund said. “It takes so much of your time when you’re self-employed like that.”

Similar to how he crafts a home, he crafted a winning culture at South Whidbey. Prior to his arrival, the Falcons never placed in the district tournament or the state tournament. His first year as the coach, Knaplund recalled the team was picked to finish last in the Cascade League (now Cascade Conference). The Falcons proved the preseason poll wrong.

“We went in and finished second — we won 12 games,” Knaplund said. “That was a very rewarding year.”

During his second season as the coach, he took the Falcons to the district tournament, where the Lynden Lions beat them en route to a state championship. There was some comfort in being defeated by the state champs and turning the table the following seasons.

For the next two years, South Whidbey ruled the district.

In 1984, his third year at South Whidbey, Knaplund’s team finished eighth in the Class A boys basketball tournament. The next year, the Falcons finished in sixth place.

“Going to state was a thrill for the whole community,” he said. “South Whidbey was a great place to coach. I had really neat kids and great parents.”

The discipline his team played with was the key to his success, he said. Once they believed and trusted in the system, the Falcons won.

“We were very disciplined,” Knaplund said.

“I always wanted to take good shots. We played great defense. Those kids realized the importance of the discipline and becoming a team unit.”

Wall of Fame coordinator Dennis Hunter chose Knaplund because of his career and community involvement on South Whidbey.

“It was decided years ago, but we were waiting for the appropriate time to honor him,” Hunter said. “John is the next in line and has been for some time.”

Knaplund was a student athlete at Langley High School and later was the school district’s facilities director for 12 years, but no stretch of time rivals his four years with the Falcon basketball boys.

“They were a real rewarding four years,” he said.

He will be honored during the Falcon Dessert Diner at 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14.

Previously, the Falcon Dessert Diner was a dinner, but it was changed to a dessert banquet and will precede the homecoming football game against Cedarcrest at 7 p.m. South Whidbey Athletic Booster Club president Ursula Shoudy said the sponsorship of Whidbey Island Bank and the boosters allowed them to make the event free.

Hunter said donations and sponsorships for the plaques are still being accepted.


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