Seattle coach Frank Ahern mentored, inspired many in six-decade hall-of-fame career
Frank Ahern, a longtime Seattle-area basketball, track and field, and cross-country coach, died Monday at age 86.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Frank Ahern, a Seattle-area hall of fame coach, died Monday of congestive heart failure. He was 86.
“He was a good guy,” said Paul Ahern, his only son.
“Good” overflowed from a plastic laundry basket of memories the family went through Monday afternoon. Ahern’s family, which includes six children, 16 grandkids and Frank’s wife of 55 years, Dona, grieved and looked through clippings, cards and thank-you notes Ahern had collected.
Frank Ahern kept pieces of positive news — ranging from his athletic career in the 1940s to items about and from his former athletes and family — filed neatly in labeled folders in something he called “the good box.”
Ahern’s funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Oct. 12 at St. Edward Church. In lieu of flowers, the family asks donations be sent to the “Frank and Dona Ahern Scholarship Fund” at P.O. Box 942, Kent, WA 98035. The scholarship will benefit inner-city Seattle high school athletes.
In many ways, Ahern (pronounced uh-HURN) was ahead of his time. He began his coaching career at Seattle Prep in 1948 as an assistant basketball coach while completing his studies at Seattle University. Ahern was fixated on the fundamentals of sports. Before it became a staple of coaching, he videotaped his athletes and children — all six played sports — to critique their form.
“We used to call that the seventh child because he toted it around everywhere on his shoulders,” Paul Ahern said of the video recorder.
Paul watched side-by-side clips of his springboard diving form compared to Greg Louganis. Paul was a state diving champion his senior year at Kennedy High.
Frank used the same technique and focus for his teams, becoming the first Seattle Prep coach to win a league basketball title. He won his first state championship — in cross country — in 1958 at Franklin High. At Asa Mercer Junior High, Ahern’s basketball team won 68 consecutive games.
Ahern’s coaching and teaching career extended to the 2000s, when he was an unpaid assistant coach with the top-rated Garfield High boys basketball team and a substitute teacher.
Ahern, a graduate of O’Dea High, played basketball at Washington State and Seattle U. He coached basketball, track and field and cross country, making stops at Seattle Prep, Franklin, Asa Mercer, Cleveland, Seattle Central Community College, O’Dea, Highline Community College and Garfield.
He’s in both the state track and field and cross country coaches’ halls of fame, as well as the Seattle Prep hall of fame.
“Whether you quit coaching now or 10 years from now,” King County council member Larry Gossett stated in a handwritten note in December 1978, the year Ahern retired as coach at Cleveland High, “you’ve already influenced the positive development of more inner-city youth than most people will in a lifetime. And for that, you’ll always be remembered by those of us to whom you’ve dedicated your life work.”
Ahern took great pride in all of his children graduating from college, getting married and remaining married like their parents, and having multiple children — all of whom also played sports.
“He taught them about being a good human being,” Dona said. “I don’t think they would have turned out so well without him.”
Many in Seattle would say the same of knowing Ahern. To borrow a “Ahernism,” he bloomed where he was planted.
“It didn’t matter where we went, we would see someone he knew,” said Theresa, the eldest child. “He’d say, ‘How could I forget you?’ And they would say to me, ‘Your dad made such an impact on my life.’
“It’s quite amazing.”
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.