LONGVIEW — Veteran coach, teacher and principal at the Naselle-Grays River Valley School District died in Longview Saturday, Oct. 19 from natural causes. Patterson was 84.

“We are all deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Lyle Patterson. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family. He was a legend and an icon. He always cared about you in academics and as a person and not just as an athlete,” Superintendent of NGRV Schools, Lisa Nelson, said Monday.

A banner stretching two-thirds the length of the basketball court at Naselle High School honors Lyle Patterson, the legendary coach the gymnasium is named after. It says, “Thirty-two years, 623 wins, 31 winning seasons, 13 league championships, 15 district championships, 18 places at state,” but numbers will never define the man.

“I spent a lot of time in Coach Patterson’s (principal) office when I went to school and it wasn’t for good behavior,” Ilwaco Athletic Director and coach Kevin McNulty remembered with a smile. “He gave me more scoldings and hacks than he probably gave anyone else, but as soon as he was through he would always tell me about what I could be. He has left a lifetime impression on me and I try to emulate him, even though all I can do is try. He was a great person who treated everyone well,” McNulty said.

McNulty had visited Coach Patterson and wife Elaine in early October and the first thing Patterson asked about was how McNulty’s family was faring. “Coach always asked about my family and me personally and then we would talk sports. He was a mentor, teacher and coach, but first Mr. Patterson was a father, husband and friend. Elaine would spend all day with him at the last. I know Mr. Patterson served in the Korean War and then there are the numbers of his coaching career, but seeing how much in love he and his wife were even in their 80s is something I will always treasure,” McNulty said.

“I saw Lyle a couple of weeks ago and then last Thursday (Oct. 17). He looked tired,” friend, school district director and basketball scorekeeper Gilbert Haataia said.

“Even though he is the second-winningest basketball coach in state history, Lyle used basketball to teach kids how to succeed in life. He said that if you gave it 100 percent and lost to a better player, then you were still a success. When Naselle would lose the state championship or other very important games, he would always tell the kids that if that was the worst thing that ever happened to them, then they should be thankful. When my son lost his first wife, he called Lyle and told him now he understood what Lyle had meant,” Haataia related.

“I am proud to have been his friend. He put Naselle on the map with the success of our basketball teams. I remember once a player went down and stuffed the basketball during a game. Lyle called time out and told the kid that if he wanted to show off, he could do it on the weekend, but if he wanted to play ball at Naselle it was all about teamwork,” Haataia remembered.

“Coach was like a father to me along with my own dad (Benny Macy). Later Coach would always give me advice ‘to do things right’ when I coached. Coach was a religious man and he wanted me to have the kids make the right choices and to work hard, rather than advising me on what coaching decisions I should make. He was a great guy and I am thankful he helped me along the way,” current Comets’ boys’ basketball coach Brian Macy said.

Macy was on teams that finished third, second and second in the state his last three years in high school — a run typical of the success Patterson’s Comets soared to. The final time many people in Naselle saw Coach Patterson was at a get-together the school had Aug. 27 for former and current employees.

The Comets under coach Patterson were always remarkable for their fast-breaking and man-to-man style on the court, their blue blazers and scarves hand-knit by Elaine and for their positive deportment off the court. Coach Patterson’s greatest accomplishments were in the lives of those he touched and no sports stadium could ever hold a banner large enough to chronicle those contributions.

A private service will be held for the family in Longview on Thursday, Oct. 24 and burial will be at Willamette National Cemetery in Oregon later that day. A public memorial will be at the First Baptist Church in Longview on Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. Cards and letters may be sent to Elaine Patterson, 4317 Olympia Way, Longview, WA 98632. A fund to help future Comets’ boys basketball players with scholarships will be set up in honor of Coach Patterson.

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