Western Washington University and Sehome High School are less than a mile apart, and when it comes to basketball, the two schools are even closer — especially this season.
Two of the starters on the Mariners boys basketball team — seniors Grey Garrison and Dane Dominguez — are the sons of WWU women’s head coach Carmen Dolfo and WWU men’s head coach Tony Dominguez, respectively.
And the two Sehome seniors are coached by Brad Jackson, who is in his first year with the Mariners but who was the men’s head coach at Western for 27 seasons.
“We never thought about it happening,” said Dolfo of having Jackson coach the Sehome boys. “They always played together, but we didn’t know they’d ever play for Brad. All the boys love Brad.”
The latest connection between Sehome and Western is no surprise. It goes back decades and the list of Sehome alum who also have played for the Vikings is long. (See below.) It includes current women’s coach Stacey (Miller) Turrell, a 1998 Sehome grad who played for the Vikings from 2000 to 2003, and Wyatt Watson, a junior on the current men’s roster.
The relationship has been especially strong this season with the hiring of Jackson.
“Our family has been connected with Sehome over the years,” said Jackson, whose daughter and son both played basketball for Sehome and whose son, Kyle, also played for Western. “I knew the coaches at Sehome and established relationships (with the players). I worked with the kids during COVID, we did camps, and they would come to our games.”
What makes it unique is that Sehome may be the only team in the state with the children of a four-year college’s two head coaches on its roster at the same time.
For Garrison and young Dominguez, it was almost destined to happen. Their parents tried to introduce the two shy little boys at a Bellingham Slam semi-pro game, and they soon became close friends.
And with their parents on the Western staff for more than a quarter-century — Dolfo is in her 31st year as head coach and Dominguez in his ninth year as head coach after 18 season as an assistant to Jackson — the boys grew up bleeding blue and white.
Well, maybe they didn’t bleed Western’s school colors, but Dolfo remembers Grey, Dane, and senior teammate and good friend Isaac Lawrence each painting W, W, and U on their bare adolescent chests at a WWU game.
“They grew up around the game,” said Dolfo. “Grey loved being on the road with us, he loves the gym. He was raised here.”
The boys said they spent as much time in Sam Carver Gymnasium as they could.
“This is how I fell in love with basketball,” said Dane. “Our parents forced us to hang out, and since then we’ve been together forever. (Growing up) all I wanted to do is be at Western.” Agreed Garrison: “We’d go to games twice a week and then go to all of Tony’s practices.”
The two have played ball together since kindergarten, usually coached by Tony and by Grey’s father, John Garrison, himself a standout player at Eastern Washington University.
Both boys said having well-known parents associated with highly successful basketball programs — the Western men won the NCAA Division II national championship in 2012 and the women reached the national championship game last year — has its advantages … but also some challenges.
“Your parents know (the game) a lot,” said Grey of the advantages. “My Mom would give me advice and give me exposure to the game. And we could get in the facility any time.”
As for the disadvantages: “People know you’re from a basketball family. I’ll probably want to get out of town.”
Dane felt the same way.
“My Dad and I watched film together and I just grew up knowing the game,” he said. “I didn’t realize how big a deal it was when I was younger.”
And while he, too, plans to leave Whatcom County to attend the University of Arizona, he said, “I want to coach because of my Dad.”
The parents also saw the positives and negatives of the situation.
“I miss some of Grey’s games,” said Dolfo of her team’s busy in-season schedule. “You just have to FaceTime or watch online. There’s some degree of guilt.”
As for offering coaching advice, Dolfo rarely does but not because she doesn’t want to, she said with a laugh. “John talks more (basketball with Grey) than me, Grey never wanted that from me. I get to be the support parent and say, ‘Great job!’”
For coach Dominguez, basketball was something he and his son could bond over.
“I wanted stability for my family and wanted (our kids) in team sports,” said Tony. “He was sports-minded and it gave us an opportunity to be together. But he’s also felt a lot of pressure, and he cares what people say. I’m excited that he’s going to Arizona.”
But heading off to college is in the future for both players. Right now they are concentrating on helping the Mariners, who are undefeated in the Northwest Conference and ranked among the top three Class 2A teams in the state, reach the state tournament for the second year in a row.
And they’ll do it with a coach who not only has won a national championship but is someone they’ve known all their lives. The three coaches and their spouses — Garrison, Debbie Jackson, and Kristi Dominguez — have stayed close over all the years.
“I’ve known them from the womb,” said Brad Jackson of Grey and Dane. “It’s been great. It’s natural, like family.”
Sehome’s Western Connection
Jan Johnston (1976-80)
Stacey Miller (2000-03)
Rachel Albert (2013-17)
Keith Lowry (1972-75)
Dan Burch (1976-77)
Jared Stevenson (1996-2000)
Ryan Kettman (1997-2001)
Jeff Chapman (1997-99)
Jacob Stevenson (1998-2002)
Robert Harvie (1998-2002)
Kyle Dalvit (1999-2000)
Kyle Jackson (2002-06)
Dane Thorpe (2010-14)
Leif Anderson (2018-20)
Wyatt Watson (2022-23)
(Thanks to Western’s athletic historian Paul Madison for his help in compiling the list.)
Jim Carberry is a former Bellingham Herald sports editor and author of several books on Whatcom County prep basketball. Follow him on Twitter @whatcomhoops and visit the Whatcom Hoops Facebook page.