Bremerton High School gym closer to getting a new name

Bremerton High School’s gymnasium could be renamed as soon as next month.

The Bremerton School District’s Facilities Naming Committee listened Tuesday to a proposal calling for the gym to be named after legendary basketball coaches Les Eathorne and Ken Wills.

“In my opinion, it’s in the very best interest of our kids and our community,” said Lane Dowell, who made a PowerPoint presentation that highlighted the accomplishments of each coach. “It’s just the right thing to do.”

The committee met following the presentation and drafted three naming proposals, all of which will be presented to the Bremerton School Board for approval, according to member Merilee Hansen. The next board meeting is slated for Thursday, Dec. 10, although a date for approval has yet to be set.

Details of the committee’s approved proposals were neither disclosed Tuesday nor would Hansen comment on them Wednesday, but Dowell’s original proposal was “Les Eathorne Gymnasium and Ken Wills Court.”

Dowell asked for at least one — and perhaps two — plaques to be placed inside the gym, enshrined with Eathorne’s name, and for the court to be painted with Wills’ name. Where on the court Wills’ name would be painted — and the exact plaque locations — are unclear.

Each of the committee’s three proposals — it is board policy for the committee to come up with three — are speculated to be variations of Dowell’s. The money is expected to come from a Bremerton Student & Alumni fundraiser.

“I think we have enough information to make a decision on the three (proposals),” said committee chairman Wayne Lindberg. “We, as a recommendation board, need to talk about that and how we are going to do that to make that decision.”

Eathorne, 86, coached 41 seasons — 32 in Bremerton — and was the only coach in the history of East High. Named the National High School Athletic Director of the Year in 1976, he won 502 games and is eighth on the state’s all-time victory list. Only Mercer Island’s Ed Pepple (47 seasons) and Centralia’s Ed Brown (46) coached longer than Eathorne.

He took eight teams to the state tournament during his tenure at East, winning consecutive championships in 1973 and ’74.

After retiring, Eathorne was inducted into the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Associated Hall of Hame (1993) as well as the Bremerton Athletic Roundtable Hall of Fame (2005).

“He taught us what what it took to be successful,” said 1974 East High grad Kevin Olson. “Hard work, discipline, respecting your opponent, teamwork and a never-give-up attitude were among his lessons. These are the qualities I try to live my life (by) today.”

Wills coached at West High from 1936-62, winning 72 percent of his games and climbing to 14th on the state’s all-time victory list. The Wildcats advanced to the state tournament 15 times under his watch, winning the championship in 1941.

Also inducted into the Washington State Basketball Hall of Fame, Wills coached five players who earned all-state status. He is recognized for introducing summer basketball programs to the Olympic Peninsula.

“I didn’t have much going for me. Ken Wills changed my life,” Wally Erwin said. “I could have been a real bum. Easy.”

But Wills committed suicide in 1962 at the age of 51.

Whether that is an issue when the board votes on the proposals remains to be seen, but Dowell believes Wills’ accomplishments outweigh his tragic ending.

“All the positive that man did for Bremerton people, his community and people he didn’t even know, I think, far, far, far outweighs the way his life came to an end,” he said.

“Ken lived his whole life for us,” added Louis Soriano, who played under Wills. “It’s not so much what he did for us, it’s what he did for everybody.”

Katherine Gleysteen, interim principal at BHS, and Christian Jordan, dean of students at Mountain View Middle School, also belong to the committee.

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