EVERETT — Larry Walker amassed more than 500 wins during a four-decade coaching career that spanned upward of 1,000 games.
But the legacy of the former longtime Everett Community College men’s basketball coach extends far beyond victories and on-court success.
After positively influencing countless players and impacting basketball throughout the region, Walker is one of four inductees set to enter the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame during a July 24 banquet at Nile Country Club in Mountlake Terrace.
“He’s getting the recognition more based off the man he is and the impact he had on people, instead of just some number of wins,” said Stanwood boys basketball coach Zach Ward, who played for Walker on the 1995 EvCC team that placed second in the Northwest Athletic Conference tournament. “And I think it’s cool when you see that kind of recognition.
“He got a lot of respect from a lot of people — those that played for him and didn’t play for him. He’s a hard guy not to like.”
As a high school coaches association, WIBCA inducts mostly prep coaches into its Hall of Fame. But the Hall of Fame also includes former college coaching icons such as Marv Harshman (Washington, Washington State, Pacific Lutheran), Jud Heathcote (Michigan State, Montana), Don Monson (Oregon, Idaho), Chuck Randall (Western Washington) and Keith Kingsbury (Edmonds Community College).
Set to join that group is Walker, who was a head coach at Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane for eight seasons before taking over as EvCC’s head coach in 1985, just one year after the program was resurrected following a long hiatus. Walker coached the Trojans for 31 seasons before retiring in 2016.
“He coached so many years at Everett, and he did it the right way,” said Pat Fitterer, a former longtime high school coach and past WIBCA president.
“Kingsbury and Walker were the two junior-college coaches that really stick out to me as coming in to help high school coaches become better coaches,” Fitterer added. “They had classes, they came to clinics and they were very accessible. We really felt that (they) deserved to be a part of WIBCA, because community college coaches are a big part of high school basketball.”
Walker’s impact on the game is perhaps best exemplified by a sprawling coaching tree that extends throughout Snohomish County, Washington state and beyond. More than 45 of Walker’s former players have gone on to coach high school or college basketball, either as head coaches or assistants.
The lengthy list includes several current Snohomish County high school head coaches: Ward (Stanwood boys), Bary Gould (Marysville Pilchuck boys), Corby Schuh (Marysville Getchell boys) and Joe Marsh (Arlington girls).
“It’s really amazing to me the amount of people who (played for him) and are now coaching in local high schools and other places,” Marsh said. “And I don’t think it’s a coincidence.”
“I think he’s a huge reason why all of us (coaches) are still doing it,” Ward added.
Marsh said Walker created a culture of “gym rats” at EvCC, which stemmed in large part from recruiting players who had a strong passion for basketball.
“I really enjoyed being around players that loved to play the game and wanted to be in the gym,” Walker said. “I got players that wanted to be there. I probably missed out on some kids just because I really came across that way — wanting guys that really wanted to be in the gym, loved the game and were enthusiastic about it.”
Several former players who are now coaching described Walker as a “player’s coach,” and said it’s something they try to emulate on the sidelines.
“He’s not one of these guys who over-coached you,” Marsh said. “He wasn’t a micro-manager as far as what you did on the floor. He let you go play, and I think that for sure has influenced me as a coach. I really think for me that’s one of the most important things — not to over-coach kids and to let them have some freedom to play.”
Ward said one of Walker’s greatest strengths was his ability to adapt scheme to personnel, rather than the other way around. He said that was evident during EvCC’s run to the NWAC tournament title game in 1995.
“We weren’t a super-skilled team, but we had some unique strengths, and we made it to the championship game,” Ward said. “It’s just cool to look back on that and how he adjusted to what he had, kind of like a chess game, and just put us in spots to succeed. That’s probably the biggest thing I take from him in what I do now.”
Yet perhaps what stands out most to former players was the value Walker placed on relationships.
“He definitely was a relationship-type guy and built really good, strong relationships with his players,” Schuh said. “And I try (to) look after him and do that in my coaching.”
Asked what he enjoyed most about coaching, Walker said it was “definitely” the players.
“I just loved to watch them develop, the way their character would change and the way they’d come out and compete,” he said. “And then the second thing was the coaches that I worked with over the years. … I’ve been very blessed to be around the people that I’ve been around.”
One of the lasting memories for both Ward and Marsh was how Walker balanced basketball and family. He often brought his children to practice when they were kids. His wife, Carey, traveled on road trips. And his son, Darrell, played for Walker at EvCC in the 1990s and later coached with his father for 10 years.
“We could’ve just lost a heck of a game, and a half-hour later he’s back to his normal self being dad or friend or coach or whatever,” said Ward, who as a child knew Walker from playing youth sports with Darrell. “So that’s something that I try and pull (from).
“It’s tough, but I think it’s a lot easier when you have experiences or you have role models that you see do it. … He’s a huge reason I am who I am today as a dad, as a parent and as a coach.”
In addition to coaching basketball at EvCC, Walker worked in the school’s athletic department for 31 years, spending the final 16 years as the athletic director. He helped revive sports that had previously been dropped, playing a key role in expanding the athletic program from four to 11 sports during his tenure. He also was instrumental in the construction of the Walt Price Student Fitness Center, which is home to the Trojans’ basketball and volleyball teams.
In honor of his immense impact on the basketball program and athletic department, the basketball and volleyball court will soon by named Larry Walker Court.
Walker also was involved with Northwest Basketball Camp, often traveling to help run the organization’s camps in Alaska. On three occasions, he took NBC teams of primarily high-school-aged kids on a basketball tour to Europe.
In addition, Walker served as WIBCA’s Hall of Fame chairman for 23 years.
Now, he’s set to be inducted among the state’s all-time greats.
“It’s just really cool to see how many people he actually impacted,” Marsh said. “That says a lot about the kind of person he is.”