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Mount Douglas basketball coach Rick Griffin going out a winner

The only thing you need to know about Rick Griffin are the first words to come out of his mouth once you approach him regarding an interview. “Don’t make this about me.
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Dover Bay's Emily Shires, left, and Spectrum's Taleah Penner fight for a loose ball during their quarter-final game at the Island triple-A Girls Basketball Championship on Thursday at Claremont. Spectrum went on to win 60-59.

The only thing you need to know about Rick Griffin are the first words to come out of his mouth once you approach him regarding an interview.

“Don’t make this about me. This is about the girls,” insisted the Mount Douglas Rams senior girls basketball coach who is hanging up his whistle following this season, rounding out 25 years of leading teams on Vancouver Island.

His Rams are one of eight teams competing at the triple-A Island championship, which began Thursday at Claremont Secondary.

Mount Doug opened with a 57-49 win against Alberni, but the final result has never been what matters most to the 56-year-old Griffin, who began his career in the Comox Valley then moved back to his native Victoria where he taught and coached at Arbutus Middle School prior to landing at Mount Doug.

Ask him about his fondest memories and he replies: “The relationships; the fact that a lot of them [former athletes] are still in touch.”

“They turn to you when they need you. It’s never about trophies, medals or awards,” he said without hesitation. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the athletes to win a couple of provincial championships from junior high. Those trophies are somewhere in my basement. I don’t know where they are, to be honest, because it’s not about that.”

Griffin’s greatest joy was coaching and watching his daughter Rae hit a buzzer-beater to win a junior provincial championship and then later joining her in coaching the Rams.

“When she hit that shot I was dad. I wasn’t coach and that was amazing,” said the veteran of 33 years of teaching, who is looking forward to handing his whistle off to assistant Carmen Lapthorne.

And if that doesn’t convince you of Griffin’s priorities, then his retirement celebration might — a tournament in May involving any interested kids he’s coached, with donations collected going to KidSport Victoria.

“Rick is as classy as it gets and does everything for basketball in Victoria,” said Oak Bay girls coach Rob Kinnear. “He’s a legend who has done everything he could over his time. He’s just one of those guys that always goes unnoticed and is happy to do so. He’s had a pretty amazing career.”

In earlier play Thursday, Spectrum’s Taleah Penner hit a free throw in the dying seconds to knock off Dover Bay 60-59 in the opening quarter-final. Host Claremont dumped Carihi 90-41, and No. 1 South seed Oak Bay was facing Stelly’s at 8:30 p.m.

Semifinals go at 6:45 and 8:30 p.m. tonight at Claremont.

Meanwhile, at the double-A senior boys Island championship at Lambrick Park, the host Lions defeated Woodlands 82-33 in afternoon play, while Brentwood College edged John Barsby 63-59. St. Michaels University School peppered Kwalikum 93-33, and Shawnigan Lake faced Highland in the late quarter-final.

The Lions and Brentwood meet up in a 5:30 p.m. semifinal today, and SMUS is set to challenge the Shawnigan Lake/Highland winner at 7:15 p.m. at Lambrick Park.

At the quadruple-A South Island championship, Claremont disposed of host Mount Douglas 79-42. Oak Bay defeated Belmont 84-64 (thanks to a 20-5 fourth quarter run) for third place. All four teams advance to Islands at Alberni, Feb. 27-March 1.

mannicchiarico@timescolonist.com