Renowned Pitt Meadows secondary basketball coach Rich Goulet passed away on Sunday night, at the age of 74.
Tributes to the longtime high school hoops bench boss have been posted in social media non-stop. They show he was respected as much for being a mentor and builder in the sport as he was a competitor.
This is one of the most difficult messages I have ever had to compose. We lost a legend today as Coach Rich Goulet has passed away. He was one of the most giving and caring man I have ever known. He was one of the greatest coaches the basketball community in BC has ever had.
— Paul Eberhardt (@CoachEbe) March 29, 2021
Goulet was a high school boys basketball coach for more than 50 years, including 39 at Pitt Meadows. Along the way he earned a spot in the Basketball B.C. Hall of Fame and won the Prime Minister’s Volunteer award. He also won five provincial championships, including three at Pitt Meadows.
Ken Dockendorf, his longtime friend and rival from the Maple Ridge Ramblers, said Goulet’s commitment was unmatched. Dockendorf also lived in Pitt Meadows. When he walked his dog at 10:30 p.m., he could go past the high school and always find Goulet’s office lights were still on.
“He was the most dedicated coach in the history of this province,” stated Dockendorf.
Dockendorf is the president of the BC High School Boys Basketball Association, which tweeted about Goulet’s passing late on Sunday, calling him “an amazing mentor to all his players and to young coaches all around B.C.”
The BC High School Basketball Association is extremely saddened by the passing of Coach Goulet. Rich coached for over 50 years winning 5 Provincial Titles (2 at STM & 3 at Pitt Meadows) He was an amazing mentor to all his players and to young coaches all around BC.
— bcboysbball (@bcboysbball) March 29, 2021
Goulet came to Pitt Meadows in 1979 when it was an unremarkable farm school in need of some school spirit. Just four years later he had built a program and won a provincial Double A basketball championship.
Both men ran elite programs, and Dockendorf remembers the best years were 1985 to 1991. When the Marauders played the Ramblers, it was tough to find a seat in the gym. They met in the provincial championships in 1989, and Goulet’s team won by a single point.
“It was basically the high school basketball capital of the province,” remembers Dockendorf.
Ron Wallsmith also started at the school in 1979, coming over from Westview, where he had coached the Wildcats. He was the vice principal, and also Goulet’s assistant coach. They would spend most of 40 years in gyms together.
“I thought I knew some basketball before I met him. He taught me a lot,” he said. “Rich’s passion was unbelievable.”
Pitt Meadows’ former players describe Goulet as a classic basketball coach, who ran his teams with old-school intensity. He had a love-hate relationship with some of his players. Those throwback coaches are unapologetic.
“We were all hollerers, and we tried to make the kids as good as we could make them,” said Dockendorf.
These coaches were “stern” and “demanding,” he said, and they made sure their kids made good grades, and were good citizens, said Dockendorf.
Wallsmith said the players loved Goulet. His longtime assistant went to visit him in hospital in Abbotsford, and two players from the last B.C. championship team showed up while he was there. Then a third Marauders alumnus appeared. They went outside the hospital to visit, sitting in the sunshine and telling stories.
“The admiration the kids had for him was unbelievable,” said Wallsmith.
Goulet is the godfather of Wallsmith’s son Kevin, who has gone on to become a junior boys basketball coach at Holy Cross.
Goulet never married or had children, but he had a basketball family.
Bruce Duthie started young in Goulet’s Little Dribblers program in 1983, and was coached by him until a dream season in 1992, when they made it to the provincial championships. They were beaten by a Victoria team led by Steve Nash in the final.
“He pushed us hard because he believed in us, and he taught us to believe in ourselves,” said Duthie. “But to believe in yourself, you have to do the work.”
Duthie is an executive with a national bank. He said the life lessons he learned from Goulet were more important than what he got from university.
“He is going to be dearly missed. He really did make a difference in many lives, for the better.”
Scott Walton was the big centre on that 1992 team, and followed in his mentor’s footsteps to become a high school basketball coach. He said Goulet’s teams were always competitive because he got the most out of his players. Some seasons the program was blessed with some real athletic talent, and would contend for a provincial championship. But every season, Pitt Meadows was going to be a tough team.
“I’ve been coaching 20 years, and I know how hard it is to have that success,” said Walton. “His standards were extremely high, and there was no compromise.”
He said Goulet held his players accountable in a way that is missing in modern high school sports.
As he raises his daughters, he found “A lot of that stuff translated to parenting.”
The outpouring of respect for the man when he was asked to stop coaching at Pitt Meadows in 2017 was unprecedented. Even two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, whom Goulet had coached with Team B.C., tweeted “Lucky I got to play for Coach Goulet!” Former LA Laker Robert Sacre and Miami Heat Kelly Olynyk tweeted out similar sentiments.
Goulet had suffered poor health in recent years, had strokes, was on dialysis, needed a leg amputation, and had circulation problems. He had been in hospital, was released back into his seniors home in Abbotsford, and passed there.
Wallsmith had a virtual visit with Goulet the weekend before his death, as they facetimed, and talked basketball.
“He was in his room watching March Madness, and I was home watching March Madness. It was like old times,” he said.
Wallsmith said the basketball community is honouring him in social media.
“That word ‘legend’ is a corny one, but he really was a legend,” said Dockendorf. “The impact he had on high school basketball was enormous.”
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