Kim Gahan, the wife of Summit High School coach Jay Gahan, was waiting anxiously outside the Invaders’ team room following Wednesday morning’s 49-46 loss to Adna in the opening round of the State 2B boys basketball championship at the Arena.
She had something she needed to give to her husband in a hurry, and it had nothing to do with condolences.
“I’ve got nail polish remover in my purse, and I know he’s going to want it right away,” she said.
Inside the team room, Jay Gahan was talking with his players, still clad in the same suit, tie and Nike Slide sandals – sans socks, in order to show off his brightly painted toenails – he had worn during the game.
The red nail polish had been applied the night before by his players as part of an early-season promise Gahan and his assistant Adam Desautels had made to the team.
“We told them the first time they had more assists in a game than turnovers, we’d let them paint our nails for the next game,” Gahan said. “And we had to wear sandals, too, so people could see our toenails.
“We were hoping it was going to happen waaaaaay before state. But they waited all season long to finally do it.”
As part of the deal, the Invaders had to have more than 10 assists and fewer than 10 turnovers – a feat they failed to accomplish in their first 25 games. But in their 53-52 overtime win over La Conner in the championship game of the Tri-District tournament they came up with 13 assists, while committing only seven turnovers, forcing Gahan and Desautels to make good on their promise on 2B basketball’s biggest stage.
“It was a promise, and one thing we teach these kids is if you make a promise, you keep it,” Gahan said. “You follow through, even though you might not want to. And the last thing I wanted to do was this. I can guarantee you.”
By the time players had filtered out of the team room, Desautels had already grabbed the bottle of nail polish remover Gahan’s wife had left and was feverishly trying to remove the polish from his toenails.
“I’ve never done this before,” Desautels said. “It’s really slow going.”
Summit’s late-season run that landed them in the Arena seemed to energize everyone associated with the high school in northeast Seattle, which will be closed at the end of the school year because of budget problems.
According to Gahan, students and faculty members rolled out a red carpet that stretched the length of the hallway at school and then lined up on both sides of it to exchange high and low fives with the players as they walked toward the bus waiting outside.
In addition, the team was presented with a letter of support from all the students.
“I’d never seen a sendoff quite like that,” Gahan said.
Tough to stomach
Usually, the player wearing a warm-up jacket that doesn’t match those of his teammates is a seldom-used, end-of-the- bench role player.
That wasn’t the case, however, when Quilcene’s Nate Burlingame warmed up in a gray-hooded sweatshirt prior to the Rangers’ state opener against Pe Ell.
Burlingame, a 5-foot-9 point guard and Quilcene’s leading scorer, was trying to fight through a bad case of the chills after having come down with either the flu or a bad case of food poisoning Wednesday morning.
After playing only a few minutes early in the game, the four-year starter and son of Rangers coach Brad Burlingame spent the better part of the last three quarters curled up on his side on the chairs at the end of Quilcene’s bench, rising occasionally to vomit in the small plastic garbage can he had at his side.
“It hit him like a sledgehammer,” Brad Burlingame said of his son’s sickness, which played a big role in the Rangers’ 47-44 loss to the Trojans. “Nate has started every game but one for us in the last four years.
“We’re not used to playing with him not out there, and (Pe Ell) figured that out in a hurry.”