Editor's Note: During his one season (1967) at the helm of Mark Morris basketball Pepple cobbled together a record of 6-14. While that mark stands as an outlier in his otherwise dominant career it requires a bit more perspective to truly appreciate. The previous year the Monarchs managed just one win, while under Pepple's watch they were able to win more than a quarter of their games including an upset of the fifth ranked team in the state.
Ed Pepple, the Hall of Fame boys basketball coach who coached at Mercer Island High School for 42 years, died Monday morning of cancer at age 88, Pepple’s son, Kyle, confirmed to The Seattle Times.
Known as a tactician and motivator in a maroon blazer, the former Marine was synonymous with Mercer Island hoops since 1968. Pepple led the Islanders to four state championships during his 42 years coaching at the Eastside public school. He accumulated 952 victories overall in 49 years as high-school coach before announcing his retirement in March 2009.
Current Utah Jazz coach Quin Snyder and 10-year NBA veteran Steve Hawes were among Pepple’s most notable players at Mercer Island. The father of four was proud to have guided a total of 80 boys basketball players to their dreams of playing post-graduation whether at a community college or Division I program.
“Coach Pepple treated basketball with the respect you’d give to a work of art,” former Islanders player Elliot Prasse-Freeman told the Mercer Island Patch in 2012. “He wanted you to understand it like a scientific system, and he treated it as an existential commitment: something to which you devoted a part of yourself, something with which you could grow as a person, if you were willing. This sounds quite serious, but he simultaneously infused the game with an infectious joy — something that I think was possible because he loved the game so much.”
Pepple won his first state championship in 1985 after placing second three times in the previous four years. His 1981 team lost the title game to Shadle Park when the Spokane team scored what appeared to many to be a late basket.
Mercer Island won 15 KingCo titles during Pepple’s reign.
Born in Denver, Pepple lived in six different states because of his stepfather’s position in the Army. Pepple, a 5-foot-9 point guard, graduated from Lincoln High School in 1950, playing for hall of fame coach Bill Nollan as a senior.
After a season suiting up for what is now Everett Community College, Pepple transferred to Utah where he was once voted a team captain and helped the Utes to the NCAA tournament in 1955.
Pepple began his coaching career at Fife High School and coached and taught at Meadowdale and Mark Morris. He was inducted to multiple halls of fame, including the National High School Coaches Association and Washington Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s been a great run,” Pepple told The Seattle Times in 2009 of his high-school coaching career. “Obviously you’d be crazy to stay at a job for 42 years and not enjoy it. I’ve been blessed to do something that I love. I have a lot of great memories and it’s been a magnificent and rewarding experience for me.”
Editor’s Note: During his one season (1967) at the helm of Mark Morris basketball Pepple cobbled together a record of 6-14. While that mark stands as an outlier in his otherwise dominant career it requires a bit more perspective to truly appreciate. The previous year the Monarchs managed just one win, while under Pepple’s watch they were able to win more than a quarter of their games including an upset of the fifth ranked team in the state.