In retirement, Tim Cousins always enjoyed watching basketball games. Because even though family came first, his love for the sport remained a close second.
“His life,” said daughter Barbra Fether, “was basketball.”
The 79-year-old Cousins, who died unexpectedly on Aug. 10, coached boys basketball at Darrington High School from 1971-72 to 1990-91. Including an earlier stint at Seattle’s Lakeside High School, Cousins was a head coach for 23 seasons, and in that span he won 280 games. Those totals led to his induction into the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2011.
But it was not only basketball that made Cousins “kind of a legend” in Darrington, Fether said. He took his classroom duties very seriously, too, teaching several subjects at the district’s elementary, middle and high schools. Later he spent more than 20 years as a substitute teacher, meaning he touched the lives of Darrington kids for more than four decades.
One of those kids was Jeff Bryson, a basketball player and 1983 Darrington graduate who succeeded Cousins as head coach in the fall of 1991. Bryson coached the Loggers until 2008 and is today the boys junior varsity coach at Arlington High School.
As a coach, Bryson said, Cousins’ practices “were organized and methodical, and they were planned out every day.” His teams ran a few set offensive plays, and a 2-2-1 zone press and a 2-3 zone defense. Only when the Loggers needed to play catch-up did he call for a man-to-man defense.
The Darrington playbook “wasn’t fancy,” Bryson said. “He wasn’t a guy who did a lot of different stuff. But he had a system that he was comfortable teaching and (the players) bought into it.”
It helped that the 6-foot-8 Cousins was once a basketball standout himself. Raised in New York, he played at Seattle University in the late 1950s, including a redshirt season in 1957-58 when Seattle U, led by star forward Elgin Baylor, reached the NCAA championship game before losing to Kentucky.
As a coach, Cousins “loved basketball, he loved coaching kids and he really did a good job,” said Les Hagen, pastor of the Glad Tidings Assembly in Darrington and a Loggers assistant coach from 1981-82 to 1990-91. “As a teacher in the school he really kept a tight rein on his classrooms, and it was the same way with basketball. The kids were not there to goof around. They were there to work.”
“Basketball was the sport he loved and he wanted all his players to feel the same way about the game that he did,” said Nancy Snyder, a longtime Darrington coaching colleague. “He taught them how to respect the game. … He demanded that his players be respectful and they were. He set a precedent where respect and hard work were the main things.
“His coaching style,” she added, “was not to yell at kids. He was a gentle giant. And I never heard a student say anything bad about him, and especially his players.”
Even in retirement Cousins had trouble staying away. Not only was he a substitute teacher until 2013, he continued attending most Darrington home games and many road games. He would even show up at occasional practices, sometimes riding the few blocks from his home to the school on his bicycle.
As a spectator at Darrington games, Cousins “would always sit at the end of bench,” said Dr. Buck Marsh, Darrington’s superintendent and athletic director. “And he’d always let us know what he thought. He was old school and he could be pretty gruff … but he’d also give a lot credit about the things he thought were going in the right direction.”
Friends knew Cousins by various nicknames. To Hagen he was the Big Fella. To Bryson and Snyder he was Big Tim, though Bryson also called him The Antagonist because in a friendly way Cousins “loved to stir things up. He loved to razz you.”
Indeed, Cousins always enjoyed a laugh. He would reminisce about being at Seattle U with Baylor, one of the most famous basketball players of his era, and with twinkling eyes he would mention the passerby who saw the two players chatting together and asked aloud, “Who’s that talking to Tim Cousins?”
His absence, Bryson said, will be felt not only in the basketball program and at the school, but throughout the entire community.
“When people think of Darrington (basketball), or of Darrington in any way, shape or form, Tim Cousins was one of the guys you’d always think of. He’d go to the cafés (in town), he’d visit with people, and he was ever-present.
“The world is going to be a little less interesting and a little less fun without him,” Bryson said.
A memorial service for Cousins is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sept. 3 at the Darrington Community Center.