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In a tight-knit family of coaches, lasting lessons blend basketball and life

North Creek boys coach Wayde Knowles and Cedarcrest girls coach Brad Knowles Jr  are in the coaching tree of Don Knowles, who coached at Waterville High and Peninsula Community College in the 1960s.

Wayde Knowles looks at the picture of him and his father that sits on his desk at work every day. On the court, the North Creek boys basketball coach imparts to his players a lifetime of lessons from Don Knowles.

Wayde never played for him, but his father’s lessons in hoops and life often blended together: treasure basketball, enjoy the moment and give everything you have.

His favorite?

"You’ve got to play 50 percent pissed off," Wayde said. "That’s something I tell my players as well — you can be nice off the court, but when you’re playing, you have to have an edge."

Wayde hears the voice of his father, who died of cancer in 2017, a little bit louder each Father’s Day.

Don Knowles coached five years of small-town high school basketball in central Washington, which including four years at Waterville from 1963-66, before moving to the Seattle area and jumping to the community college ranks for eight years. 

His sons Brad Knowles Sr. and Wayde both found their way into coaching well into adulthood. His oldest son, Brad Knowles Sr, is the head girls coach at Cedarcrest. Brad's son, Bradley Knowles Jr., is an assistant in Mount Si's boys program.

They describe Don Knowles' coaching style as aggressive, defensive-minded and press-oriented. Neither of the three is a carbon copy. Wayde sees his sideline temperament as more mild. 

Don Knowles retired in 1974, hanging up his clipboard sooner than his sons would have liked in favor of building his career, but the coach in him never left.

While tight-knit networks are common in the profession, it’s much more rare to find coaching trees related by blood.

After his passing, one of the ways Don Knowles’ legacy lives on is in the three of their pursuits on the sidelines.

Most of the time, that connection through the sport lives on in the form of a group chat.


Brad Sr. never got the chance to play for his dad. Neither did Wayde.

By the time Brad Sr., the oldest son, reached Waterville High School, Don Knowles had already moved to the Seattle area to make a career pivot and made the jump to coaching at the community college level, first at Peninsula College for a year then seven more at Highline Community College.

Living some 150 miles apart from their father, Brad Sr. continued his legacy as a standout quarterback, and rose to become a star on Waterville's basketball team, averaging a conference-best 21 points per game as a senior in 1976. He didn’t immediately start coaching after college, and moved west to to work with his dad. 

When his son, Brad Jr., started playing select ball, he started coaching his select teams — and caught the bug.

He coached his travel team in North Bend for nine years before taking a job coaching the "C" team at Mercer Island before he was hired at Cedarcrest in 2011. 

Brad Knowles Sr. (left), pictured with the Cedarcrest girls basketball team, has posted winning seasons in nine of his 11 years at the helm.

Brad Knowles Sr. (left), pictured with the Cedarcrest girls basketball team, has posted winning seasons in nine of his 11 years at the helm.

Once in his first high school head job, it didn’t take long for his teams to start winning. In his season season, the Red Wolves went went 22-5, won a Cascade League championship and produced a top-eight state finish.

Wayde was nine years younger than Brad Sr. and could score, too.

He made two state-tournament appearances, and his 25.3 points per game his senior season (1985) was among the state’s best. He walked on and played for Dean Nicholson at Central Washington University, and was a part of the team that finished third at NAIA Nationals in Kansas City, Missouri in 1987.

Wayde still fondly remembers the game being televised nationally and meeting prominent college basketball announcer Dick Vitale.

He moved to Issaquah after graduating to join his father and brother in the financial investment business. His first foray into coaching didn’t come long after.

A college roommate, Jim Willie, asked him to volunteer with the boys freshman team at Lake Stevens, and Wayde jumped at it. The next year, he became the junior varsity coach for some 10 years and credits much of what he knows to then-Lake Stevens coach Mark Hein.

"Then it was like, 'OK, we're kind of a basketball family," Bradley Jr. said. "It was cool. We didn't have these crazy aspirations, we just liked basketball."

But it was time to take over his own program, and when North Creek High School opened in 2017, he was hired as the school’s first and only head boys basketball coach.

The Jaguars went 0-20 in their first season with five freshmen and no seniors.

This past year — Wayde’s sixth season at North Creek — the team won their first district playoff game. 

Afterward, he knew exactly who to text.


Bradley Knowles junior (left) and Wayde Knowles pose together before a 4A KingCo game between Mount Si and North Creek.

Bradley Knowles junior (left) and Wayde Knowles pose together before a 4A KingCo game between Mount Si and North Creek.

The members of the group chat make up the next two generations of the family coaching tree. At holiday gatherings throughout the year, the three often talk hoops, but most of the time that conversation takes place over text.

Brad Sr., Wayde and Brad Jr. exchange messages about all things basketball within their respective programs on and off the court.

"After every game, we text each other," Wayde said. "Win, loss, what we did wrong, what do we need to work on?"

Sometimes, it’s Bradley Jr. fielding advice on how to manage a personnel issue. Other times, the conversation is congratulatory, like when Wayde’s Jaguars beat Pasco, 54-43, on Dec. 1, 2018 for the program's first win. Or North Creek’s first district playoff win in program history in February.

"When I texted them and said ‘Hey, we won our first game,’ " Wayde said, "that was pretty cool. Their reaction and congrats and all that. Now it’s getting more common I can text them."

Bradley Jr.'s proximity to an involvement in Mount Si's run of three consecutive state championship appearances is often a topic of banter. As the young one, he's a sponge for wisdom.

"I matured as a coach really quickly," Bradley Jr. said. "I felt after four or five years coaching, I’d been doing it for 15 years."

Many times, the group chat serves as a postgame therapy session. What do we need to work on? How do we handle this? 

"Mount Si hasn't had much to work on the last few years," Wayde said with a chuckle.

--Andy Buhler; @AndyBuhler.