Looking back at three years of memories as the head coach of The Evergreen State College men's basketball program, there were too many for Jeff Drinkwine to count.
In just a short time in his first college head coaching job, Drinkwine turned Evergreen’s program into a small-college power that included three straight winning seasons, two consecutive NAIA Division II national tournament appearances, and a .659 winning percentage.
“All in all, it was a great three years,” said Drinkwine, who resigned as head coach Thursday. “It was the hardest decision professionally I’ve ever made. ... I’m thankful for an opportunity where I was in charge of my own college program.”
Drinkwine made Evergreen into a Cascade Collegiate Conference title contender each of his three seasons.
He compiled a 60-31 record, guided the Geoducks to national tournament appearances in 2009 and ’10, and was one win shy this season of completing three straight 20-win seasons.
Prior to Drinkwine’s arrival in 2007, Evergreen’s last winning season was 2002 – the year the Geoducks won the CCC title and earned the school’s first NAIA postseason berth.
And for Drinkwine, winning at Evergreen started with changing the culture.
“We never talked about if we can get there,” Drinkwine said. “We didn’t worry about the things we didn’t have, we talked about the things we needed to accomplish. There were enough kids available in the area that were winners. We had to bring them in and talk about winning, not just on the basketball court but in everything they did.”
With two-time All-America guard Nate Menefee and forward Julio Feliciano, Evergreen finished tied for third place in the CCC, posting a 19-11 overall record this past season. The team lost to Embry-Riddle in the opening round of the NAIA tournament in Point Lookout, Mo., on March 10.
As for future coaching plans, Drinkwine said he isn’t sure just yet. He’s leaving the door open for returning to the collegiate level, including the desire to get back into the NCAA Division I ranks. He was an assistant coach at Boise State for one season, and previous college assistant coaching stints include Pacific Lutheran, Saint Martin’s and Pierce College.
“We sincerely appreciate the work that Jeff has done at Evergreen,” said Sarah Works, Evergreen’s athletic director, “and we wish him the very best with his future endeavors.”
A search for Drinkwine’s replacement will begin immediately, Works said.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org