EVERETT — In his early years of coaching, Chet Hovde was often more vocal, more vehement than he is today.
Back then, Hovde admitted, “I was young and eager. And I wanted to win at all costs.”
But after 39 years of coaching basketball, including the past 26 as the women’s head coach at Everett Community College, the 67-year-old Hovde “has mellowed a little bit,” said his boss Larry Walker, Everett CC’s athletic director and the man who hired Hovde back in 1988.
“He was a little more fiery when he came here,” said Walker, who is also the Everett CC men’s basketball coach. “Now he’s pretty low-keyed. Nothing really upsets him. He’s pretty steady and he comes across that way with his players. They enjoy him.”
Working with athletes who are young enough to be his granddaughters “keeps me young,” Hovde said. “They come in here every day and they’re enthusiastic. They talk about what they did during the day and they’ve all got big smiles on their faces.
“To be around a group like that, and one that’s so outgoing and personable, yeah, it’s enjoyable,” he said.
But even as Hovde has grown more even-tempered over the years, the wins kept coming. On January 4, the Trojans defeated Shoreline CC 69-44, handing him career victory No. 400.
“I can look back on teams, the good ones and even the bad ones, and it’s quite a history,” Hovde said. “But I have fun, too. If I wasn’t having fun and if I couldn’t relate to (the players), I wouldn’t be doing this. I like to win and that’s the bottom line, but watching over them and helping them, that’s very rewarding for me, too.”
Hovde grew up in north Everett and graduated from Everett High School in 1965. He then headed off to the University of Washington on a basketball scholarship, though he later transferred to the University of Puget Sound.
After completing college, he coached the UPS women’s team for a few years, then returned home as an assistant to then-Everett CC men’s head coach Norm Lowery and later to Wiley Davis, Lowery’s successor. Hovde returned to women’s basketball in 1978-79 when he became the school’s head coach for two seasons, followed by three seasons as the women’s head coach at Edmonds CC in 1985. He was then lured back to Everett CC by Walker in 1988.
Hovde’s second go-round with the Trojans began slowly with just one winning season in his first 10. But at that point the program started to turn and Everett CC has since posted winning marks in 10 of the last 15 seasons, including teams in 2006-07 and 2007-08 that won NWAACC North Division titles and a combined 47 games.
Steve Epperson, the head women’s coach at Skagit Valley College, has coached against Hovde for the past 26 seasons and calls him “a good friend and a good guy. … Every night we play Chet’s teams, they’re prepared, they play hard and they’re well-coached. It’s always a difficult challenge to play them.
“I might’ve got a little bit of the best of him over the years, but not by a lot,” added Epperson, a Stanwood resident who recently won his 800th career game at SVC. “He’s always very competitive with everybody in the region. And one thing about Chet, he’s always honest and straight-forward. Some coaches will bad-mouth another program, but I’ve never heard of Chet doing that. He’s just a real stand-up guy, and then he does a nice job of coaching.”
“He’s always done a really good job with the girls he gets in here, and he gets the most out of them,” agreed Walker, whose daughter Kelli played for Hovde in the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons. “Basketball coaching is his life, big-time. He loves it and he lives it.”
“When I was younger,” Hovde said, “winning and losing were the most important things. And they still are (important), but now I can look back and see girls who are doing things in life (after basketball). They’re becoming teachers and they’re having kids … and being here has given me an opportunity to guide them.
“I kind of feel like an old dad to them. They’re good kids and I enjoy it.”
Asked if he is already taking aim at career win No. 500, Hovde chuckled. “I’ll take it one year at a time,” he said. “And as long as Larry Walker keeps me on the job.”