LA GRANDE:  NAIA’s most prolific and successful coaches

LA GRANDE: NAIA’s most prolific and successful coaches

In the third installment of an ongoing series entitled ‘Moving Forward, Looking Back’-detailing some of the rich history of the Cascade Collegiate Conference (CCC) during its 25-year anniversary-the CCC now turns its sights towards some of the NAIA greats that have left lasting legacies at the helms of various programs within the conference.

The CCC boasts a number of the NAIA’s most prolific and successful coaches both past and present, with numerous representatives from the conference ranking among the nation’s all-time winningest coaches, and several CCC programs to be found on the active list of the NAIA’s most successful leaders.

For example, Carroll College’s head men’s soccer coach Doug Mello is ranked 3rd all-time in wins with 472, while Northwest University’s Gary McIntosh comes in at No. 25 with 166. Dan Birkey, who helmed the Concordia University (Ore.) men’s soccer program while it was an NAIA-affiliated school in the CCC, is currently ranked 10th all-time in wins with 363. Ranking just outside the top-25 is former Warner Pacific head coach Bernie Fagan, who lands at No. 27 with his all-time win mark of 271.

Mello, who also coached in the women’s soccer ranks, sits at No. 5 all-time among women’s soccer coaches with his 282 victories. Interestingly enough, Mello holds the record for the youngest-ever head coach, starting his career at age 20 at NAIA-affiliated Aquinas College (Mich.); and he is the only coach to have over 400 wins in men’s soccer competition and at least 275 wins in women’s soccer competition. During his 43-year career, he has instructed 65 players that have gone on to coach at the collegiate level.

Another coach from Concordia (Ore.), Grant Landy compiled 330 wins during the women’s soccer program’s time in the NAIA, good enough for second all-time. Marty Ziesemer-who helmed the Corban University program from 1996-2015-sits at No. 11 in total wins with 274. A trio of current conference coaches can also be found on this list, with Rocky Mountain’s Richard Duffy ranking 24th all-time with 168 wins, David Thorvilson of Carroll sitting at No. 26 with 144 career victories, and College of Idaho’s Brian Smith coming in at No. 30 all-time with 131 career triumphs.

In volleyball, legendary College of Idaho head coach Liz Mendiola currently stands at 18th among active coaches in wins, tallying 423 in her career thus far. The Yotes’ leader also has a .726 winning percentage, placing her in the NAIA’s Top-10 among active coaches. Josh Rohfling, the CCC’s reigning volleyball Coach of the Year, is also on the NAIA’s current winningest coaches (by win percentage) list, sitting just above Mendiola with his spectacular mark of .738 (through 2018).

Multiple CCC coaches have left their mark on the NAIA Division II men’s basketball record books. Southern Oregon’s Brian McDermott has piled up 455 wins-placing him ninth among active coaches and 29th among the all-time ranks-over his 31 seasons as a head coach. Long-time College of Idaho leader (and member of the NAIA Hall of Fame) Marty Holly accrued 423 wins over the span of his impressive 19-year career in Caldwell, putting him among the most successful coaches in NAIA history.

Of course, it would be impossible to forget former Oregon Tech head coach Danny Miles and his illustrious career, with his 1,049 all-time wins serving as the second-most in NAIA history, and the fourth-highest total among all NAIA and NCAA head coaches. The prolific Owls men’s basketball program ranks 10th in all-time program wins, with Miles being responsible for 1049 of the team’s 1358 triumphs.

Anji Weissenfluh, the head coach of Eastern Oregon’s women’s basketball program, came into the 2018-19 season tied for 10th among active coaches with 408 wins. Her fellow CCC coach Scott Meredith, who is at the helm of the Oregon Tech Lady Owls, began the year with 191 career wins, good for 22nd on the same list.

In softball, Greg Stewart of Oregon Tech has compiled an impressive résumé while leading the Lady Owls. Heading into the 2018 season, Stewart ranked 21st among active coaches in wins, accruing a ridiculous to-date record of 521-237.

It is worth noting that College of Idaho’s Shawn Humberger is ranked 26th among active coaches in wins (560) in NAIA baseball, though the Yotes compete in the NAIA West-a conference that has a scheduling alliance administered by the CCC. Perhaps the most successful NAIA head coach of all-time in any sport is Ed Cheff of Lewis-Clark State-which also competes in the NAIA West. Cheff, who coached from 1977-2010, is the only coach to ever break the 1,500-win plateau in the NAIA.

Understandably, the success of coaches in sports such as track & field, cross country, wrestling, and golf are much more complicated to track given the lack of a traditional win tally. However, for a detailed look at the CCC’s rich history of success in programs such as these throughout the past 25 years, CLICK HERE.

Over the past quarter century, the Cascade Conference has been fortunate to feature some of the country’s best coaches, with the CCC’s long line of nationally-recognized programs due in large part to the exceptional leadership that has made its way-and is making its way currently-through the conference’s institutions.