Conley has led the Titans to state in each of the past eight tournaments
They were newlyweds when ”they” got their first head coaching job in high school basketball, leading the Kingston program.
A few years later, they learned of an opening in Vancouver, and they went for it.
Sure, Blake was the head coach, but Blake and Christie made the move to Union High School as a team.
Through the years, as the Union boys basketball team kept winning, Blake and Christie’s team at home started to grow. Today, they have two sons.
“We decided after the season, this feels like the right time for us,” Blake Conley said Wednesday after telling his team and then announcing on social media that he was resigning as the head coach.
Beyond his discussions with Christie, he asked colleagues for advice before making a final call.
“You’re never going to regret spending more time with your kids,” was the consensus, Conley said.
“Just a lot of affirmation, a lot of prayer,” he said. “We didn’t make a spur-of-the-moment decision.”
Conley coached Union for 10 seasons. His first team did not make it to the Tacoma Dome for the state tournament. All of the others did. (Well, except for the abbreviated season when there was no state tournament.) That’s right. Conley, players, and his coaching staff have made it to the dome in each of the past eight tournaments.
“They were special, every time we clinched,” Conley said. “If you would have told me we’d go eight times in a row, I wouldn’t have believed you. That’s hard for anybody.”
The Titans earned four trophies in those eight seasons, including a second-place finish when the 2017 team advanced to the state championship game. The program made it to the semifinals three other times, including third-place finishes in 2015 and 2020. The 2022 team took fifth place.
“It was really cool to see the kids grow as people and as players. There were some years people thought we’d have a down year, and we had even more success,” Conley said. “I attribute that to the leaders we had as players.”
The friendships he has made through Union basketball are more important than the results on the scoreboard or finishes in the state program.
“I’m going to miss the games and the atmosphere of game nights. But I’m really going to miss the practices, and the driving to the games, and the team camps. It’s the relationship piece,” Conley said. “Nobody coaches for the money. You don’t coach for the glory. It’s the relationships.”
Conley said it was an emotional day Wednesday, telling the team. When news spread on social media, former players reached out to Conley.
“Very overwhelming in a good way, if that makes sense,” the coach said.
Conley plans to remain at Union as a teacher.
“I love my teaching job and I love Union High School,” Conley said. “No plan on leaving any time soon.”
At the end of the work day next winter, he will be heading home instead of to another practice.
Through the years, he has told his players that while basketball is important, basketball should not define them.
Conley is taking his own advice. He is a lot of things. A husband. A father. A family man. A teacher.
And now, he is a former basketball coach.
“The timing seemed right,” Conley said.
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