The Obit For Frank Mataya

Legendary WVC coach and athletic director dies

By Brent Stecker
World staff writer
Friday, October 9, 2009

EAST WENATCHEE — Frank Mataya left indelible marks — wherever he went, whomever he engaged.

As an athlete, he enjoyed one of the most decorated careers in the history of Washington State University (at that time called Washington State College), winning a school record 13 total varsity letters in basketball, baseball, football and track and field, and earning himself a spot in the school’s Hall of Fame.

As a coach at Wenatchee Valley College, he put together a lengthy career in which he became known for a no-nonsense attitude, but also for being dedicated to helping his players get the most out of their talents and education.

And as a father and husband, he showed his wife and five children a softer side not always seen by those who knew him only as a coach.

“Some of the hardest people can also be some of the most sympathetic and understanding people,” says his son, Frank M. Mataya of Mount Vernon. “He was probably one of the most gentle people you would ever know, which might strike people funny because he was such a hard-nosed coach.”

Now, those marks are what is left.

Mataya, a legendary basketball and track and field coach who spent 25 years at Wenatchee Valley College, passed away from natural causes on Wednesday. He was 80.

It was an intense dedication and love for sports that kept Mataya at WVC longer than any other coach in the history of the institution.

“He loved the competition. He just liked athletics, win or lose,” says Dawn Mataya, his wife of 55 years.

“He was a very loyal Wenatchee Valley College Knight, and he contributed tremendously to our athletic program,” says Sandy Cooprider, who played football and track for Mataya and later coached alongside him at WVC.

Mataya’s impact is felt throughout the state landscape.

Born on Oct. 24, 1928, he enjoyed sterling athletic careers at Cle Elum High School and Washington State. After college, Mataya had various stints with pro and semi-pro baseball, basketball and football teams, including the Wenatchee Chiefs minor-league baseball team.

He began coaching and teaching career in 1955 at Entiat, then spent the next four years at his alma mater Cle Elum, leading the school to the 1959 Class A state basketball title.

In 1960, he moved on to WVC to take on head coaching duties for the Knights’ football, men’s basketball and track and field teams. Though he spent just one season as the football coach, he stayed on as an assistant for several years, including the 1962 championship season.

“He’d play devil’s advocate a lot of times, and it’s good to have that,” Cooprider says.

Mataya amassed a 153-284 record in two stints as head basketball coach (1961-75 and 1980-84), and assisted Bill Pandiani during the Knights’ title run in 1980.

Mataya put an emphasis on recruiting locally, and his teams reflected such.

“He looked at the North Central Washington athletes first, because he felt that was the role of a community college at that time,” Dawn Mataya says.

It wasn’t just his coaching or playing days that people remember Mataya for, however. As a physical education instructor and athletic director, there were many other people whose lives he affected.

“I’ve had so many people who have told me my dad was a hell of a guy, and they may not have even played sports,” says his son, Mark Mataya of Wenatchee.

First and foremost, he was a family man, though.

“His legacy is that, from a family perspective, he was an incredible dad and a great grandpa,” Frank M. Mataya says. “He was a better man than he was a coach. To our family, he is it.”