The former coach at the University of Puget Sound will likely be an assistant in the future, but he said he’s done being a head coach. He heads into his final game at Auburn with a 114-58 record.
Be here to do something, not for something to do.
Gordon Elliott asks his Auburn High School football players for that level of commitment, and certainly demands it of himself. Those who know him — particularly those who have played for or coached with him over the past four decades and call him Gordy — know how many special things he has done for them, the school and the community the past 16 years.
“Gordy is so much more than just a football coach to our kids and our community,” Auburn athletic director Katie Henry said. “He is a mentor to those boys and has taught them life lessons they will never forget.”
Elliott, who turns 64 in November, told administrators and team members earlier this month he will step down at the end of this season. The nonleague game Thursday against Kentridge will be his last as a head coach — although he intends to serve as an assistant coach somewhere next season and beyond.
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“I’ve still got a lot of coaching left in me,” he said, “but head coaching can be draining.”
Before he fully retires, Elliott — who will teach at Auburn at least through the 2018 fall semester — said he wants to work as an assistant for both of his sons-in-law. Chris Paulson is head coach at Curtis High of University Place. Aaron Chantler was head coach at Gig Harbor before resigning so he could coach with Elliott at Auburn this season and expects to be a head coach again.
Elliott was a three-sport standout at Lake Washington High School (class of 1972), who went on to play football and baseball at Spokane Falls, then football at the University of Puget Sound — where he later became head coach in 1994. His got his first coaching job in 1977 as an assistant at California-Davis and has coached somewhere all but one year since — a career he never initially envisioned, instead studying to become a lawyer.
But he quickly fell in love with coaching and teaching — particularly at the high-school level. He was head coach at Camas and Columbia River before taking the job at UPS, where he was fired after an 0-9 season in 2001.
That was the year Bob Jones stepped down as head coach at Auburn, and Elliott was hired as his successor.
Jason Silbaugh, head coach at Bonney Lake, played one season for Elliott at UPS and coached with him there for three years.
“Gordy is one of the main reasons why I coach,” Silbaugh said. “I have personal experience of how a good coach can impact a player for a lifetime. Gordy did that for me and I have seen some of the other players he has impacted over his career. I learned from Gordy that winning is important, but that is not the most important thing. It is the relationships we build and the knowledge that we do things the right way with character.”
Dan Irwin has been on Elliott’s staff all 16 years at Auburn.
“I have learned more about football and how to teach than I ever could have imagined,” he said.
Tony Davis, in his 24th season as head coach at Tahoma, said three things come to mind when thinking of Elliott — character, passion for the sport and connection with players.
“He’s a special man,” Davis said.
Elliott and his wife, Sue, have been married for 37 years and have two daughters, Amanda Paulson and Jenna Chantler. Some health issues the past few years caused Elliott to ponder retirement in an effort to reduce stress, but he said he didn’t officially decide until after a 30-17 defeat against Auburn Mountainview in early October, which dropped the Trojans to 4-2 after a 4-0 start.
“I just kind of knew it was time,” said Elliott, whose teams run his signature Jet Sweep offense. “We haven’t played up to our capabilities, and maybe it’s just time for a new message and somebody younger to come in.”
Auburn, a state semifinalist in 2006 and 2012, is 5-4 and missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season — although Elliott’s overall record is still impressive at 114-58 with just two losing seasons.