Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé volleyball coach Jody Levernier takes a photo of players who are joined by family and friends during Senior Night on Saturday, Oct. 28, at JDHS. On Tuesday the Juneau Board of Education unanimously approved changing the name of the gym to the George Houston Gymnasium, following the death earlier this year of the longtime local basketball coach. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé volleyball coach Jody Levernier takes a photo of players who are joined by family and friends during Senior Night on Saturday, Oct. 28, at JDHS. On Tuesday the Juneau Board of Education unanimously approved changing the name of the gym to the George Houston Gymnasium, following the death earlier this year of the longtime local basketball coach. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé volleyball coach Jody Levernier takes a photo of players who are joined by family and friends during Senior Night on Saturday, Oct. 28, at JDHS. On Tuesday the Juneau Board of Education unanimously approved changing the name of the gym to the George Houston Gymnasium, following the death earlier this year of the longtime local basketball coach. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire) Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé volleyball coach Jody Levernier takes a photo of players who are joined by family and friends during Senior Night on Saturday, Oct. 28, at JDHS. On Tuesday the Juneau Board of Education unanimously approved changing the name of the gym to the George Houston Gymnasium, following the death earlier this year of the longtime local basketball coach. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

JDHS gym renamed George Houston Gymnasium to honor longtime former basketball coach

School board’s unanimous vote occurs on night when dozens of title-winning athletes also honored.

A local high school gym was renamed to honor longtime basketball coach George Houston, who died earlier this year, and dozens of local student-athletes who won titles this fall were recognized by the Juneau Board of Education on Tuesday night.

The board unanimously approved renaming the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Gymnasium to the George Houston Gymnasium during its meeting. The request for the change was made in a letter to the board signed by a long list of local sports figures including current and former coaches, as well as former NBA All-Star and JDHS graduate Carlos Boozer.

[George Houston: A remembrance]

Houston died Oct. 26 of a rare form of vasculitis at the age of 72. He graduated from JDHS in 1969 as a member of a state basketball championship team, and served 18 seasons as assistant coach and 14 seasons as head coach for the Crimson Bears.

Students from the Douglas Indian Association’s affiliation of the Juneau Alaska Music Matters program perform while student-athletes and their coaches cluster in the back of the library at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé High during a Juneau Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night. The music students, as well as title-winning athletes and teams this fall, were honored during the meeting. The board also voted unanimously to rename the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Gymnasium to the George Houston Gymnasium, following the death earlier this year of the longtime local coach. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Students from the Douglas Indian Association’s affiliation of the Juneau Alaska Music Matters program perform while student-athletes and their coaches cluster in the back of the library at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé High during a Juneau Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night. The music students, as well as title-winning athletes and teams this fall, were honored during the meeting. The board also voted unanimously to rename the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé Gymnasium to the George Houston Gymnasium, following the death earlier this year of the longtime local coach. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The letter notes he had a 278-85 career record as a head coach, led Juneau to back-to-back state championships in 1997 and 1998, won 11 Southeast Conference titles, was “Alaska’s coach of the year” three times, and was inducted into both the Alaska Association of School Activities and the Alaska Association of Basketball Coaches halls of fame. He also was a member of the Juneau Volunteer Fire Department for many years.

“Discussions about naming the gym after George had begun well before he became ill and then passed away,” the letter states. “This is not a memorial, but a proper and fitting way to honor a consummate educator, committed coach, and by any measure a great person. It is unfortunate timing that this is being done after his passing, but the idea of renaming the JDHS gymnasium in his honor is one that has very broad community support.”

The motion to rename the gym was made by school board member Will Muldoon, who referred to the effort by other community members to spearhead the proposal.

“I think it would be an appropriate measure for such a consummate member of the Crimson Bears community and a good reflection of the work that he’s done for our community for the last four decades,” he said.

Offering public testimony at the meeting in favor of the renaming was Craig Dahl, one of the letter signees who is a JDHS alumni, and former classmate and fellow firefighter with Houston.

“We believe that when a broadcaster says ‘live from the George Houston Gymnasium’ at events it will elicit a nod of respect from all who knew George, including his arch-rivals, as well for those who didn’t, and an opportunity to look him up,” Dahl said.

The motion passed unanimously without further discussion by the board.

The renaming of the gym occurred on an evening when the library at JDHS, where the board met, was packed with dozens of student-athletes and coaches being recognized for achievements during the fall semester. Also honored were students participating in the Douglas Indian Association’s affiliation with the Juneau Alaska Music Matters program, with a group of them performing two Alaska Native songs in a procession in front of the board and audience near the start of the meeting.

The sports honorees included the JDHS girls swim/dive team that won the state championships in November and JDHS junior Emma Fellman who was the top individual girls’ swimmer, plus the Thunder Mountain High School girls team which placed second at the state championships in November, and TMHS senior PJ Foy who was the top boys’ swimmer and Male Athlete of the Meet for third straight year, according to Superintendent Frank Hauser, who made the presentations.

Honored in tennis was the JDHS team (which includes TMHS players), which took second overall, first place in mixed doubles, second place in girls’ doubles and third place in boys’ doubles at the state title competition in October.

The Juneau Huskies Cheer Team was recognized for winning first place in the game day and halftime routines at the Rally in the Valley Cheer Competition at Colony High School earlier this year. The JDHS girls’ cross-country team was honored for finishing second at the Division I cross-country championships in October.

Also, while not on the list of official honorees at the meeting, “a quick shoutout” was offered to the TMHS wrestling team (which also has JDHS students) for winning the Region V Southeast Tournament Championships on Saturday, ending a 15-year winning streak by Ketchikan High School. The TMHS team is competing in the Alaska School Athletics Association State Wrestling Championships in Anchorage on Friday and Saturday.

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com and (907) 957-2306.

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