THE SECOND MIKE Knowles era of the Port Angeles girls basketball program came to an end Friday morning.
What started with a whole bunch of noise four years ago finished quietly after Knowles submitted his resignation to district administrators.
Citing health issues and a desire to limit stress, Knowles walked away after guiding the Roughriders to four Olympic League titles in four years.
“I just had to do it for my own health — it’s a little too much for me right now,” said Knowles, 70-23 in his second stint as Rider girls head coach and 182-44 in nine seasons total.
“Relieving stress from my life is going to help my well-being, and that’s what I want to do.
“I want to continue to coach, but I’m not wanting to stay in that position as a head coach and deal with all that.
“I need to take care of myself personally first.”
Knowles was knee deep in drama when he first attempted a return to the girls program in 2007.
He was originally passed over for the job in favor of Kevin Ruble months before the season started; this despite the fact Knowles’ teams won a district championship and five league titles during his first stint as coach from 1997-2002.
In contrast, Ruble had yet to be a head coach at the high school level.
Several parents and players attended a Port Angeles School Board meeting to protest Ruble’s hire and to back Knowles.
But it wasn’t until Ruble resigned because of his own health issues weeks into the season that Knowles regained the post.
Once that happened, much of the consternation faded into the background, and Port Angeles reassumed its position as one of the top girls basketball programs in the area.
The Riders won at least a share of four straight Olympic League titles led by four-year starting guard Jessica Madison.
They were 60-4 in league games during that time, winning 37 straight between 2008 and ’11.
The run culminated with this year’s Class 2A West Central District title — the school’s first since Knowles’ 1999 team won one — and a trip to the state tournament.
“I’m glad I had the opportunity to come back and coach the girls program,” said Knowles, whose teams visited state five times in his nine years as coach, one coming during his second stint.
“We had success, and I enjoyed every minute of it, and I wouldn’t have turned it down for anything.”
Port Angeles athletic director Dwayne Johnson said the district plans to open up a national search for a coach.
The hope is that the job can be attached to a teaching position somewhere in the district.
“We’re going to start a search immediately,” Johnson said. “[Knowles] did an outstanding job. He went out on a high note being district champions.”
Knowles estimated he coached as many as 20 girls who went on to play college basketball during his time as head coach.
Madison will move on to play for Division II University of Alaska-Anchorage next winter.
And former players Kelly Berglund (Sacramento State) and Alison Crumb (Peninsula College) have both coached at the college level.
Now that his own daughter, Alison, is graduating from high school, Mike said he’s ready to move on.
He met with players on Friday to explain his decision, and he said he plans on assisting the district in whatever way he can to find a replacement.
“Anything I can do to help with that transition is a priority of mine,” Knowles said. “These kids still mean a lot to me, and I want to make sure they have some success.”
Thanks to former Clallam Bay boys basketball coach John Wilson, I stumbled upon another all-time scorer.
Fran Michelena, who played from 1993-97, racked up 1,901 points and led the Bruins to a third-place in the old B tournament in 1996.
Of the area players whose stats are available, Chimacum/Bainbridge star Steven Gray is the area leader with 2,415 points.
Sequim’s Ryan Kaps (1,959) is second, followed by Michelena and Port Angeles girls star Jessica Madison (1,896).
Throw me a line if you know of any others.
Haleigh Harrison is a leaper.
Watch the Sequim sophomore play volleyball or basketball for a little bit, and that becomes quite apparent right away.
Already the school record holder in the high jump at 5-foot-3, Harrison set the bar a little higher in her first meet of the season Tuesday afternoon in Fife with a leap of 5-4.
She also won two other individual events (long jump and 300 meter hurdles) and helped the 4-by-400 relay to a victory as well.
Here’s guessing we’re in for a big year from Harrison.
________Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.