The memorable moments are immeasurable.
Dave Lutes shared in countless celebrations during his remarkable 42-year career with the Kent School District, which comes to a close with his retirement Friday.
Naturally, state championships achieved by the district’s four high schools during his tenure as director of athletics the past 29 years stand out.
Yet, some nights seem more special than others, Lutes admits — such as watching his youngest daughter, Kristin, help key Kentlake’s third consecutive state volleyball title as a senior in 2002, a run that featured All-American Courtney Thompson.
But as he reflects on his career as football coach and administrator over the past four decades, it’s not the trophies Lutes most treasures. Instead, he relishes the relationships forged along the way.
“As I’ve been thinking back, I think my favorite memories are going to be the friendships and relationships with my fellow athletic directors and colleagues, not only from Kent but also from the years serving the SPSL and NPSL,” he said. “They’re all great guys and great gals. And I was always very active across the state — just those relationships and friendships that will follow me moving forward.”
Lutes, 66, leaves a legacy not soon to be forgotten.
“Simply said, Dave will be missed,” longtime WIAA executive director Mike Colbrese said. “Not only at the school-district level, but at the WIAA District 3 and state levels.
“His work with football has been tireless and on point, leading the way for fair bracketing, the safety of the game and developing a districtwide program that has become the model. His can-do attitude, positive approach and relationship building has nurtured many current athletic directors.”
Among them is Jo Anne Daughtry, who first met Lutes in the fall of 1984 and leaned heavily on him when she became Kentwood AD in 1998.
“He was always very patient with me and a great mentor,” she said. “He has a remained a great friend and mentor over the years. … He has made a huge impact on my life.”
Tony Davis, longtime football coach and AD at Tahoma, calls Lutes “the face of the NPSL/SPSL” who has been a valuable resource.
“He’s seen and experienced just about everything there is to see in school athletics,” Davis said. “There are some incredible ADs in this state. I can’t think of one who is more respected than Dave. We will miss his humor, experience, wisdom and presence.”
Chris Carr said Lutes “took a chance” on him when he was hired as Kentlake’s first boys basketball coach in the late 1990s. Carr later built the girls program into a powerhouse and now is AD at Auburn Mountainview, thanks in part to Lutes’ mentorship.
“I guess the best thing to say about Dave is he didn’t have many peers,” Carr said. “His aura of excellence was recognized and rarely matched. He is a true legend.”
Lutes has received numerous honors and awards as a coach and administrator — including a state Hall of Fame induction in each. Among the highest honors was the National Citation Award for Exemplary Service to Athletic Administration in 2016, presented annually to just eight ADs across the country by the National Federation of State High School Associations and the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.
“That is one of the coveted national awards, and I was very proud of that,” he said.
Lutes was a star quarterback and multisport athlete at Mount Rainier High School, setting numerous league records before graduating in 1971. He went on to letter in football at the University of Washington, where he discovered a passion for coaching and was a student assistant under Don James in 1976.
He opted to pursue high-school coaching over college for stability. He and his sweetheart since ninth grade, Linda, had married in 1975. They celebrate their 44th anniversary later this month and Linda, a longtime dental hygienist, is retiring at the end of June.
Lutes became a traffic-safety teacher at Kentridge High School in the fall of 1977 and joined Mike Silvey’s football staff. Lutes was hired as Kentwood’s football coach when the school opened in 1981 and immediately built a winner, amassing an 81-20 record over nine seasons, including four runs to the state semifinals and two championship appearances.
His decision to suspend six key players for drug-related athletic code violations — including the starting quarterback and record-setting halfback — two days before the 1988 state-title game still resonates with his colleagues. Kentwood lost that game to Ingraham 21-0.
“The lesson to be learned was more important than the win,” Daughtry said. “Doing what is right always comes first.”
Carr said, “That decision may have cost him a state championship, but it cemented his legacy of character and integrity.”
Nearly 20 years later, one of the players involved called it “an incredible stand” that helped send the right message and helped provide a model he uses in raising his children.
As much as he loved coaching, Lutes made the decision to move to district AD in 1990 when Jack Burrell unexpectedly stepped down, figuring the opportunity might not come along again soon.
In typical fashion, Lutes doesn’t consider any big shoes he is leaving to fill.
“Everybody is replaceable,” he said. “Life goes on.”