Tim Kelly came to the Lincoln High boys basketball program in 1993 as the fresh-faced newcomer in the Narrows League.
On Tuesday he resigned after 14 seasons to take the head job at Curtis High School, his alma mater.
Kelly, 45, leaves Lincoln as one of the most accomplished coaches in Tacoma Public Schools history, leading the Abes to back-to-back Class 4A state championships in 2001 and 2002 and totaling a 222-123 overall record.
“A lot of the success, a lot of the things we do, now you have to walk away from that,” said Kelly, who replaces retiring Lindsay Bemis as the school’s fifth boys basketball coach. “Yeah, it’s sad. But change is good. I’m looking forward to that challenge.”
The moves makes sense for Kelly on a number of levels. He is a 1979 Curtis graduate. He and his wife, Gini, live in University Place, as does his mother, Mary.
His wife is a speech pathologist for the University Place School District, and his oldest daughter, Annie, attends an elementary school in the district.
“I was happy where I was at,” Kelly said. “It would take something special for me to leave (Lincoln) … and I know this job doesn’t open up very often. I don’t know if it will again.”
Bemis announced last fall this would be his final season at Curtis, and guided the Vikings to a 4A state tournament appearance.
Applications for the position were taken up to March 29. Curtis athletic director Terry Jenks said he selected five of the seven candidates for initial interviews.
The search committee narrowed the search to three finalists – Kelly, Tumwater coach Marty Reid and Auburn coach Ryan Hansen – for final interviews April 6, and Jenks offered the position to Kelly on Monday afternoon.
“We had a good pool. Any one of them could have been a quality coach at Curtis,” Jenks said. “We’ve got a program that has had success, so we were looking for someone with experience running a program who has a little insight on how to tweak it … to become more successful.”
Besides the two 4A titles, Kelly led Lincoln to seven state appearances in his 14 seasons. The Abes won five Narrows League titles, and two West Central District championships during his tenure.
Kelly’s 222 victories are second to Ron Billings’ 272 in 16 seasons. He will also teach social studies courses at Curtis High.
“It’s kind of like the passing of an era,” said Lincoln AD Char Davenport, adding she’d like to have a new coach in place by May 15. “Tim’s a man of integrity. I wish him well.”
— Todd Milles