NASELLE — Brian Macy holds a number of titles at the Naselle-Grays River Valley School (NGRVS) — including math teacher, head coach for boys’ basketball, athletic director and dean of students — but, to most, he’s simply “Coach.” Since coming to NGRVS at the start of the 2004-05 school year, Macy has become an integral and well-respected part of the teaching and administrative staff.
The Macy family has a long history at the school. Four generations of the family have graduated from NGRVS: Grandfather Ben Macy in 1937, father Martin (Benny) Macy in 1961, Coach Macy in 1984, and his son, Drew in 2010. It’s interesting to note that the coach’s class of 84 included Lisa Nelson, Diane (Saari) Bennett, Lynette Mullins Megan Wirkkala and Dan Vaughn. Nelson is the NGRVS district superintendent, Bennett is a teacher there, Mullins is part of the maintenance staff, Wirkkala drives school bus and Vaughn is the middle school basketball coach. In addition to all these, every member of the school district’s board of directors — including this story’s writer — as well as the school’s principal, are graduates from NGRVS. There probably aren’t many schools that can make that claim.
Speaking about her former classmate, Nelson said, “I would say ‘quiet perseverance’ is how I would describe him. Shows up early, works very steady. Does his job. Only basketball gets him fired up. He’s a lot more vocal on the sidelines than in the office. Well rounded. A good teammate and loyal person.”
Pacific County born
Macy was born in 1965 in South Bend, the youngest child in a family that included two sisters, Tracee and Melinda. His father was a commercial fisherman and his mother, Jackie, was mainly a homemaker, but also worked for Giro Nakagawa at the Linn Point oyster cannery and, later, at the Nemah store and café. The family lived in Nemah until Macy was in the fifth grade. At that point, they moved to Naselle on Parpala Road. Since returning to NGRVS, Macy and his family have lived in Nemah. Sister Tracee lives in Central Park and sister Melinda McNulty lives in Chinook. Her husband Kevin coaches in Ilwaco. Their son, Sean McNulty, taught PE and was the cross-country coach not long ago at NGRVS.
During high school, Macy played basketball, football and participated in track.
Macy recalled, “I played for Coach Lyle Patterson all those years. Our basketball team got second in state two years in a row – 83 and 84. We got third in state my sophomore year.” With a laugh, he noted, “I sat on the bench most of that season but I played varsity my sophomore year. My freshman year, the team got third in state as well, but I wasn’t on varsity then.”
“When I first started college, I knew I wanted to be a teacher and a coach,” Macy said. “I actually kind of knew that when I was in high school. I had always watched coach Patterson and then Steve Tolva and Deb Denny and I thought, you know, I like the way they help kids and the way they work and I would like to do that. And so, I kind of had that in the back of my mind for quite some time before graduating from Naselle.
“After graduating from Naselle, I took the long road through college,” he recalled. “I went to Pacific in Forest Grove for two years.” With a chuckle he noted, “I was just kind of doing a college thing. The extensive college thing. After a couple years of doing that, I decided maybe I needed to get a little more serious and go a little farther away from home. So, I transferred to Eastern and ended up going four years there.”
While at Eastern Washington University, Macy roomed, at one time or another, with fellow Naselle-ites Jeff, Lonnie and Randy Eaton.
Long career in Ocosta
Upon graduation in June 1990, Macy sent out a number of applications. He was hired to teach over the summer at the Naselle Youth Camp School. During the summer, he received a job offer from a school down in Bakersfield, California. Not totally enthused about moving to Bakersfield, he asked for time to consider the offer and hoped, in the meantime, another offer would come in. Just in the nick of time, he received a call from Ocosta. It turned out he had sent them his letter of introduction but had failed to include his application. Coach Patterson heard Ocosta had contacted Macy and gave them a call. Whatever he said during that call prompted Ocosta to ask Macy to come up for an interview and bring his application form.
Macy got the job and worked at Ocosta school for the next 14 years. He was a math and PE teacher and, over the years, held a number of coaching positions, including head coach for the high school girls’ basketball team.
“After nine years or so, I decided to work towards my admin credentials,” said Macy. “So, I quit head coaching. But, I was still doing some assistant coaching and helping while I was working toward my credentials.”
While in the process of earning his credentials, Macy also worked as the assistant principal. Once he received his administrator’s credentials, he was offered the position of principal. Accepting the position, he told them he wasn’t sure that was what he wanted to do in the long term. After a stressful year, which included the death of a student, Macy had decided that was not what he wanted to do for the rest of his career.
“I found I didn’t like being totally out of the classroom and being out of contact with all of the kids,” said Macy.
While at a job fair in Spokane with the Ocosta superintendent, Macy ran into Karen Wirkkala, then principal at NGRVS. It turned out there were several positions open at the school. Macy took a couple of applications. Later, he mentioned to his wife Wendy that he had the applications. She asked if he was serious about going to Naselle. After discussing it, they both decided they were interested and each filled out an application.
Back to Naselle
After interviews, both Macys received job offers which they accepted. Wendy became the second grade teacher, a position which she has held to date. Macy was hired to split his time between classroom subjects, PE and serving as the head basketball coach.
“I taught social studies, math and PE and coached basketball the first year,” recalled Macy. “I’ve genuinely enjoyed my coaching. When we were 2B, it was really tough to beat teams in that central 2B league at the District and State tournaments. In the Pacific League, we won two or three league titles in a row. We had some really close games in post season games that were winner to state and loser out. We’d get right up to the door and then not get through. I think once we started playing at the 1B level we became more competitive. Last year we made it to the regionals. If there had been a 16-team tournament we’d have made it to State. It’s been better for all our kids in every sport. I think it took all of us, me included, a while to realize this is probably where we are at. With the decline in enrolling we were experiencing, I think our kids really are benefiting from the move to 1B.”
As proof to that statement, this year the Comet football team earned their way into the state tournament before being outscored by an undefeated Lummi team. The volleyball team became District champions and made it to state earning seventh place. The varsity boys’ basketball team finished second in the league and are in post-season play. The varsity girls’ basketball team finished the regular season first in the league and will now play in the District tournament.
Macy is clearly optimistic about the future of sports at Naselle saying, “I think we have some extremely good athletes coming up through the system.”
The Macy’s are now empty nesters. Their son, Drew, graduated from college last spring with a degree in computer science and is now employed in Oklahoma by Fast Enterprises, working on software for the state department of licensing.
“He’s doing well and is already making more money than I do after 27 years in education,” said Macy with a touch of pride in his voice.
“Wendy and I love living in this area. We love the community. We love the school. It is a great school. I just think there’s some awesome people here. Some great teachers and staff with whom Wendy and I are proud to work,” he said.