By MICK HOLIEN
When a man or women is tabbed with the moniker “Coach” the first name instilled upon them at birth disappears forever being replaced by the lifetime description that only can be earned by the respect accorded their direction.
While my first coach Billy Frazier is long since deceased and sometimes is affectionately recognized by former players as “Fox” Washington and Gonzaga Prep Hall of Fame football mentor always will only be coach to me.
In the case of Kalispell’s Bill Epperly he introduced himself to me just that way in the eighties when I was broadcasting Kalispell games played in Missoula back to the Flathead.
Bill was laid to rest Tuesday.
What I discovered when I was doing Flathead games, long before I got to know him more closely by his first name, this wildly intense bench coach especially when it came to officials who mellowed little when he watched his sons, daughters and grandchildren participated.
But to know Bill Epperly was to know a coach deeply entranced in his profession, no matter at what level, and committed to share every piece of himself passionately with those under his charge.
A handsome man I don’t ever remember him with anything but that wavy white hair and succinct observations.
My most recent elongated conversation came in Polson between games when he analyzed a sophomore son’s expected performance but excitedly pointed out that his younger brother had just begun to receive coaching and while early-on showed little interest in sports might mature to be the best of the young players.
Coach’s honors are certainly well earned and being recently recognized as a rare member of the National Basketball Coach’s Hall of Fame was the pinnacle and I am so happy it occurred while he was alive.
Bill was at his finest when he watched his relatives compete, far prefers that to a radio description. And he and his wife Kay, traveled thousands of miles to either coach or watch them compete.
In fact Kay might have been more verbose with officials that Coach, quickly analyzing a play and loudly screaming what she thought about it. She will continue to do that maybe just a taste softer.
He also of course is a member of the state’s Coaches Hall of Fame.
Bill is survived by Kay, his wife of 49 years, and children Jeff, Jim, Julie, and Joanie.