A Dunn deal

NK grad now prowls the sidelines as a Cougar

“PULLMAN – In the last eight years of his coaching career, Kasey Dunn has had more nicknames than Prince. He has been an Aztec, a Lobo, a Vandal (twice), a Horned Frog, and now, as an assistant coach with Washington State, he’s a Cougar. But before all that, Dunn was a Viking, playing his high school football from 1984-86 at North Kitsap High, where he was a star receiver and safety. Dunn caught 11 touchdown passes his senior year. The trend continued through his playing days at the University of Idaho, where he set and still holds the records for receptions (268) and receiving yards (3,847). Now Dunn is on the verge of his third season with the Cougars, where he coaches running backs. This is the best team I’ve been around in three years. Barring injury, we should have a pretty decent season, he said. Dunn’s football odyssey began in earnest when he arrived in Poulsbo. His family moved to Renton from California and later to Poulsbo in time for Dunn to become a Viking. The competition was pretty good, he said. They have great sports programs all the way through the peninsula. It was a great challenge and an opportunity, and I got great coaching. The head coach of North Kitsap during Dunn’s run was Jerry Parrish. A picture of a smiling Dunn, wearing number 30, hangs in Parrish’s office in a row with other NK luminaries. Parrish remembers a great athlete that could have been better. He was a good athlete and got better and better, Parrish said. As a high school player he could have been better. He has a lot of natural ability, but didn’t push himself as hard as he could have. He was as good an athlete as we’ve had come through here, but the opponents didn’t challenge him, the coaches didn’t challenge him and he didn’t challenge himself. Other than Dunn’s tremendous natural ability, Parrish remembers his personality and intelligence. He was very outgoing, he wore his personality on his sleeve, Parrish said. Parrish believes Dunn could go far in his coaching career: He was such a good athlete. He’s got all the necessary things he needs, and the character to be pretty damn good. Virgil Taylor, who also coached Dunn in football, thinks he saw the coaching instincts when Dunn was still a youngster. One thing that always struck me about Kasey from when I first knew him was his willingness to help out the younger kids, kids not necessarily as good as him. From that I knew he’d be a great coach. Taylor added, Aside from the superior athletic ability he had was the fact that he cared about what was going to happen when he left. That was one thing that impressed me about Kasey. In Parrish, Dunn remembers a coach he admires and tries to emulate. He’s demanding of the kids, but he’s still there for them, and I try to do the same thing, Dunn said Monday, where he was preparing for a season of Cougar football. I push them as hard as I can, but I never turn my back on the kids. After redshirting his first year at the University of Idaho, Dunn found success there, helping lead the Vandals to three Big Sky titles and a 24-12 record in his three varsity seasons. He was a two-time first-team All American. Afterwards, Dunn spent a brief with the Houston Oilers as a free agent – A cup of coffee, he said. His memories of that NFL stint are vivid. I caught a pass from Warren Moon and thought about keeping the ball, Dunn said. Or asking, ‘Will you sign this, Mr. Moon?’ Dunn’s talent led him to Canada, where he played for two Canadian Football League Teams, the British Columbia Lions and the Edmonton Eskimos. Things went pretty well up there, he said. It’s much more relaxed, not as intense. I prefer the American game. It was good experience, and I got an opportunity to play professional football. Dunn had been writing down plays and collecting playbooks every year he was in football, wanting to be a coach. But once his playing career was over, he briefly got out of the game. I said, ‘I’m going to try to do something different,’ Dunn said, so he went to work for Gold’s Gym. It didn’t last long. When football was coming around I said ‘forget this,’ Dunn said. He went off to the University of San Diego as a tight end/running backs coach. Working under Brian Fogarty, Dunn found himself learning a wing T, a different kind of football altogether. Dunn, the former high-flying football and basketball star in North Kitsap, found himself coaching a precise ground attack. There wasn’t a lick of passing, Dunn said, laughing. I’d go into the coach’s office and say, ‘You’ve got to put some passes in there for me!’ Another transition awaited Dunn, who left to take a job at the University of Idaho in 1995 under coach Chris Tormey. Dunn was the cornerbacks coach, a tough change for a guy who, as a receiver, found himself hoping to burn cornerbacks every game of his playing career. That was the biggest gain of experience for me, he said. What to expect in the secondary, what you can read by watching receivers, stuff like that. I went to a lot of clinics and learned how to coach it, how to defend it. Dunn said he tried to remember Playing wideout, remember defensive backs I had played against, and what they did that had made them special. It was fun. I had a great time. Dunn said coaching a number of positions wasn’t his goal. It wasn’t something I set out to do. But my goal is, like a lot of people, to be a head coach at a major college. When I jumped over to (coaching) defensive backs, it was an opportunity to get back to Division I college. After stints at the University of New Mexico and Texas Christian University, Dunn was happy to come back to the northwest and become a Cougar. His goal for the future is definite. When asked where he wants to be in five years he said, The head coach of the University of Idaho. But, Dunn admits, it is the game of football he loves. I like working with the guys. I like the game of football. I love to win, I love the competitive scene, he said. When they come into my office and say, ‘how can I do this better, it just fires me up.’ Dunn said: I love the pageantry of football on Saturdays. Eleven times a year, it’s a pretty special time of day. “