Even more than the players, a region’s sports culture is defined by its long-serving coaches.
Players come and go, but coaches endure. Instilling their principles, their memories and the histories of their teams across decades, they tie together generations of athletes and fans.
Ray Hobbs, who died Feb. 9 at Regency Assisted Living in Pullman at age 88, was one of those sturdy cords who bound the sports culture of the Palouse.
From the early 1950s until the late 1990s, Hobbs was always coaching.
He is most identified with Pullman High School, where the football field bears his name. He taught physical education and served 34 years as football coach, 17 years as basketball coach, became athletic and activities director, and would fill in as needed as coach for sports like golf and track.
Following his retirement from Pullman in 1985, Hobbs ran the defense for a couple of years for Lewiston High School’s football team and coached 8-man football at Colton High School. As an assistant, he also helped his son, Wesley, when he was the head football coach at North Central High.
As a football coach, Hobbs was the area’s most prominent proponent of the Wing-T offense.
Hobbs compiled a 188-104-8 record with the Greyhounds’ football team, highlighted by three consecutive undefeated seasons.
He was named the Inland Empire Coach of the Year in 1979 and was a member of the Washington State Coaches Hall of Fame. Hobbs also coached for two years at Davis High School in Yakima.
He came to Pullman from his native Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1948 to play football for Washington State College as a fullback and place-kicker. After graduating, be began his long association with the Greyhounds.
Hobbs connected at a fundamental level with the Inland Northwest. At the start of football seasons, when many of his players were driving trucks during grain harvest before coming to football practice, Hobbs suggested they bring their cleats to the Palouse fields and run hills for conditioning while they waited for their trucks to be filled for trips to the elevator. In his spare time, Hobbs was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed the region’s camping, hunting and especially its fly fishing opportunities.
Hobbs had an array of colorful characterizations of players’ attributes and foibles. They may have been “slower than molasses in January,” but in his estimation the kids he coached had the stubbornness to prevail against the challenges thrown up against adolescents by high school sports.
Hobbs approved that, and he expressed it by referring to them with a term used early in the 20th Century to refer to ill-prepared but determined homesteaders. Legions of Hobbs’ players are proud to be known as his “honyocks.”
Hobbs is survived by his children Jody, John (Liz) and Wesley (Stephanie), six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Josie, and his parents, Raymond and Frances Hobbs.
A celebration of Hobbs’ life is planned for 2 p.m. on March 17 at the Pullman High gymnasium.