It’s been a long journey for Barry Janusch, now having passed three decades at Olympic College, first as men’s basketball coach and for the past 27 years as athletic director at the school.
Janusch’s tenure is remarkable as it is uncommon. Not many stay as AD at schools in the Northwest Athletic Conference as long as he has, and at 64 he has no intent to leave.
Janusch was lured here by Dave Sturgeon, who at the time was the men’s basketball coach but in 1992 was moving over to coach the women’s basketball team, leaving the men’s coaching position vacant. Janusch was an assistant coach at Idaho State and was looking to move on when Sturgeon called him to tell him the men’s position was open. Janusch was hired and that started a now 31-year career at OC.
Sturgeon and Janusch met for the first time at Clark College in Vancouver. Sturgeon was a sophomore on the basketball team when Janusch, who played high school ball at Spokane’s West Valley, was recruited in 1977 as a freshman.
“My claim to fame is we were playing Olympic College, coached by Tommy Thompson, and they were ahead by one point when they called time out.” Janusch said. “They didn’t have one so we got to shoot two technical foul shots. I shot them and made both and we won by one point.
“Tommy reminds me of that game every time we meet,” Janusch laughs.
Janusch played his final two years of college ball at Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon). The team went 26-4 his senior season and reached the round of 16 in the NAIA National Tournament in Kansas City. They got beat by Alabama Huntsville, which finished second, losing in overtime to Bethany Nazarene College 86-85 in title game.
After college, Janusch played and coached three years in Australia, spent one year as head men’s coach at Clark College (1984-85), and then took a job as assistant at Idaho State for seven years.
He coached OC men’s basketball for the next 10 years, reaching the post-season eight times. He became OC’s athletic director in 1996. He came back for two more seasons as coach when, as AD he could not find a coach.
“We weren’t very good and I wasn’t having any fun," Janusch says. “My head wasn’t in it all. I just didn’t have the passion I had before.”
There are now 36 schools in the NWAC, covering Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Not all schools offer every sport. Olympic College has men’s cross country and track, baseball, basketball, and golf. Women’s sports are golf, cross country, track, softball, basketball and volleyball.
Janusch has been married 39 years to Arlene, with three children, two of them married, and six grandchildren, with a seventh expected in January. He is a proud grandfather who has branched out in his administrative duties by adding the conference golf chair 12 years ago. South Puget Sound and Blue Mountain recently added golf programs, so now 13 conference schools have the sport, which Janusch oversees.
Besides other duties, Janusch is in charge of selecting a site for the annual conference golf championships. They have been held for the last four years at Apple Tree Golf Course in Yakima, and that will continue to be the location.
Janusch has an answer as to why he has hung around so long as AD. He’s second in tenure in the NWAC to Pierce College’s Duncan Stevenson, who is in his 36th year. He likes it and gets to help young students/athletes as they begin their journey into adulthood. His smile is a winner, and he is a positive force in a world that needs it.
"I’m a pretty simple guy,” he says. “I just try to keep our athletic department competitive with these other schools.”
Stevenson says, “Barry is definitely one of the good guys. He has done it right from day one. He works in the best interest of the total experience of his student-athletes. He is the consummate professional. Solid ethics and a man of integrity.
”We have worked together on a number of projects for the conference over the years, and I've always walked away a little bit smarter for having had the opportunity to work with him.”
The coaches Janusch has assembled, including the most recent hire, former OC basketball player Paul Felker for men’s basketball, are a good group that works hard for their student-athletes.
“Almost 50 percent of our athletes have a GPA of 3.26 or better,” Janusch said of the last grade report.
It’s funny the things you remember. Janusch recalls the 1997-98 basketball team that started out 13-0 and then, boom, injuries took out key players Billy Landram and Felker and the season fell apart.
Mikael Moore tried to save it but couldn’t. Moore, grandson of Maxine Waters, a congresswoman from California who used to show up to watch her grandson play, was diverted to OC by a coaching friend of Janusch.
“Moore came to OC from Long Beach State where he redshirted his freshman year,” says Janusch. “I got a call from the coach, who was a friend, and asked me if I needed a point guard.”
Janusch couldn’t say yes quickly enough.
Moore was the final piece in what may have been Janusch’s best team. Then Landram, a top scorer, suffered stress fracture in his foot, Felker tore his ACL and sixth man Adrian Egger broke a toe.
The team, which also included Matt Brien and Scott Hamre, had lost its best players and began to falter. Even Moore, a “gift” from a major basketball school, couldn’t rescue the team.
But one season didn't define Janusch's coaching career, and he's stuck with the school in Bremerton through good times and tough ones. And as long as he enjoys working for the Rangers' student-athletes, Janusch says he'll continue on.
Terry Mosher is a longtime Kitsap sportswriter and writes a regular column on sports personalities for the Kitsap Sun. Contact him at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: Barry Janusch on 30 years of working with Olympic College sports