Sports

Grady resigns as hoop coach at TJ to take over AD duties

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

The only coach to lead the Thomas Jefferson girl’s basketball team to the state tournament resigned to take over as the school’s athletic director last week.

Mike Grady led the Lady Raiders to two straight appearances at the Class 4A State Basketball Championships in 2002 and ‘03. But the TJ coach for the past six years was forced to make a decision on his future — and he chose athletic director.

“I talked with some (South Puget Sound League) athletic directors and they said it just couldn’t be done. They said you couldn’t coach and be an athletic director. You have no time and your AD job will suffer. They said ‘trust us, we all tried it,’” he said.

Grady coached the girls during the summer and broke the news of his decision to concentrate on his new athletic director duties last Thursday.

“It wasn’t real pleasant telling the kids,” Grady said. “This will be the first time in 22 years that I haven’t coached basketball in the winter. But I just want to work on the AD thing.”

Grady takes over for Toni Wiblemo, who was the athletic director at Thomas Jefferson for the last six years. Wiblemo will remain at the school and will go back to teaching physical education.

“She just wants a break,” Grady said. “She did an awesome job.”

Grady’s best coaching job may have come last season. The Raiders lost several all-time school recordholders, including Michelle Morse and Jessiye Clark, from the school’s first-ever state tournament team in the 2001-02 season. Morse ended her career as the leading scorer in school history with 1,384 points and Clark is the all-time Raider leader in assists and three-point seasons. Grady returned only one starter, but led the Raiders to a surprising 19-9 season before being ousted in the consolation semifinals at the Tacoma Dome.

“I feel things happen for a reason,” Grady said. “We got the girls to state. Last year nobody really expected a lot. We lost a lot of kids.”

Grady also had the opportunity to coach his daughter, Erin, during her final season on the basketball team. Erin Grady graduated in the spring.

“I was happy she could go to state,” he said. “There is a great picture I have of us standing at midcourt at the state tournament with the great TJ fans behind us. Those are nice things to have.”

Grady has experience as an athletic director. He served in that position at Totem Junior High and at the small Bickleton High School — a B school in eastern Washington, south of Sunnyside. He is a 1975 graduate of Decatur High School.

“We opened up the job and had some good candidates,” said TJ Principal George Ilgenfritz. “Mike has been in the district and is very respected by everyone and was a super candidate.”

The girl’s basketball coaching position is currently open and Grady and Ilgenfritz hope to fill the job as soon as possible.

“We don’t want the kids nervous wondering who their coach is going to be,” Ilgenfritz said.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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