College to honor long-time coach, athletic director
Photos from George Gablehouse Recognition, May 22
The name of George Gablehouse stands as a monument to all that was and continues to be right with the Centralia College athletic programs. For 20 years, beginning in 1957, Gablehouse was the athletic department. As the coach of the Blazer basketball and baseball teams he set high standards for recruiting, and developing the student-athletes that remain at the heart of the Centralia College culture.
“I believed that you couldn’t come to Centralia College just as an athlete. You had to have a commitment to academics. It was my goal to make sure the kids knew it wasn’t just athletics,” he said. “It’s very difficult to have success only as an athlete.”
Gablehouse’s own experience helped bring him to that conclusion. As a basketball player at Eastern Washington College (now University) he was the leading scorer on a team that won 30 games, losing but four. Gablehouse was named a member of the Little All-American Team. Even with star-status, he surmised his future lay outside playing for money. Helping to mold new generations of student-athletes was his passion and he turned that into his career.
Gablehouse said that he is proud of the fact that as he looks back on the kids who played for him, “I think just about every one of my kids went on to a four-year school. They were and are successful people. My job as a coach was to help each player mature, to help each one recognize that he or she had potential as an athlete and as a student.”
When Gablehouse accepted the coaching job at Centralia College he was told the program was flat, and that he would have to rebuild it from the ground up. The job he accepted came with low expectations for winning. The word was that it would be surprising if he won a single game his first year.
The Blazers did win three basketball games that year, outperforming expectations and the program grew from there. Over the following 15 years his basketball teams made five tournament appearances. His baseball teams, during that span, were invited to six state tournaments, winning the title in 1965.
“It was a rough start, but things turned around,” he said. “The kids believed in themselves and their abilities and good things happened.” Plus they had a coach who believed in them.
Gablehouse said the ability to get along with others was critical to players’ development. There was discipline, hard work, physical and mental toughness, and goal setting. “But,” he said, “behind it was people getting along with people.” That standard still bonds his players today; “they still get along.”
Supporting Gablehouse’s recruitment efforts was the fact that Centralia College was known throughout the state for it’s high academic standard. “I’d talk to them about coming to Centralia College and they knew they would get a great education. It was a tremendous recruiting message that the parents really liked, but it meant something to the kids, too. It’s a standard not easily lost on the kids who came here.” He added that the quality of the Centralia College faculty has not diminished. “It’s still a great college,” he said. “One that I am proud of and the kids who come here can be proud of, and certainly the community can take pride in this college.”
Centralia College and the Centralia College Foundation will honor Gablehouse as it dedicates the entrance hall in the Health and Wellness Center (HWC) in honor of his many years of service to Centralia College. The ceremony takes place Tuesday, May 22, beginning at 3 p.m. The HWC is located at the corner of Walnut and Iron streets in Centralia.