South Whidbey mourns coach’s death

Tim Collins helped lead the Falcons to their first state berth in over a decade this past spring. Collins died Thursday evening of natural causes.

Coach Tim Collins, an even-keeled, goofy, but demanding coach who impacted the lives of many during his 19 years of coaching softball, basketball and volleyball in Washington and Oregon, died Thursday evening of natural causes.

He was 66.

Collins coached softball and boys basketball at the high school, as well as volleyball at Langley Middle School. He led the Falcon softball team to their first state berth in over a decade this past spring.

He will be missed by his family, friends, and players he coached.

“He was just a dork and he was awesome,” said junior Kacie Hanson, who played softball for Collins. “Super fun guy. It takes you a little bit to understand his sense of humor, but once you get to know him, he is like the coolest guy. He was just so funny and outgoing.”

Collins saw beyond what many coaches believed to be valuable in a player. Chase Collins, his oldest son, said that no matter how good or bad a player was, he never wrote them off. There was always something more that could be done, whether it be shooting one more shot or throwing one more pitch. And even if it didn’t have any lasting impacts on the team, he saw to it that the player grew, had fun, and became a better person in the end. The thing that disappointed him the most was someone not trying.

Chase learned a lot from his father.

“The first time I cried is when I looked in the mirror,” Chase said. “He was a huge part of me. It’s not just me. He coached everyone. Everyone was family to him. If you were trying hard in a sport, he would put you in. That’s what rubbed the most off on me.”

A car crash cut Tim Collins’ personal collegiate basketball career short, so he took to coaching. He spent several years coaching softball at Willamette High School in Eugene, Oregon, which included a state championship in his earlier years there.

It’s also where he met his wife, Heather.

Jeff Hanson, Kacie’s father, used to coach against Collins when their kids played youth basketball. Hanson recalled a game where a referee made a bad call and Collins came over and sat next to Hanson on his side of the court.

“I think he said, ‘Boy that was a bad call,’ ” Hanson said. “I just laughed.”

Hanson thought the feat of taking the Falcons, which had a small squad of only 12 players, to state was a “major accomplishment.”

“He was one of a kind. It’s just how he went about it,” Hanson said. “He was goofy as a coach, he was intense as a coach, and kind of crazy as a coach. He knew where he wanted to get them. That was his deal. That was really his sport to coach. He had a plan.”

Collins had the opportunity to coach his kids — Chase, Parker, and Mackenzee — at South Whidbey throughout the years. He helped coach Chase and Parker on the courts as an assistant boys basketball coach for the Falcons, while he helped Mackenzee out on the softball field. He took over a flailing Falcon softball program which hadn’t had a winning season in over a decade. In just his second year, he helped the team reach state, with Mackenzee leading the way from the mound as a pitcher.

Collins’ keen eye as Mackenzee’s private pitching coach, combined with Mackenzee’s dedication, helped her become an all-league pitcher as a freshman. She also pitched on a select team that went to the Amateur Softball Association national championships in late July through early August.

“He didn’t have to do that,” Mackenzee said. “I don’t think I always realized how much time he put into it and into the family. Because he knew we could do so well. He just wanted us to succeed and do what we loved. He believed that we could do it. He knew we could do it.”

Chase, who played basketball and golf, said the normal barriers of father and son were broken while playing C-Team basketball for his dad.

“They were my favorite times,” Chase said. “Sports enabled us to be people around each other, to really get to know who we are without any social bounds. I’m really thankful for that.”

Heather Collins said that his family was the important thing to Collins.

“He said that he was happy with his life and that he couldn’t complain if he kicked the bucket tomorrow,” Heather said. “As heartbreaking as this has been, losing the love of my life, it’s been real heart-warming how many people have kind words about him and how he touched people’s lives. He had a wonderful family and wonderful kids. We miss him a ton, but I feel like he had a good life. He was happy with it.”

Superintendent Jo Moccia said it was far too soon to be thinking about looking for a replacement as softball coach.

A memorial service for Collins will be held at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22 at the SWHS main gymnasium.