Mike Cocke', who shaped Foss High School's basketball team into a regular state contender during the last decade, is leaving the Falcons to become the next head coach at Wilson High School.
Cocke', 43, was announced Monday evening as the replacement for longtime Rams coach Dave Alwert, who resigned last month to focus on his family.
Wilson assistant principal Bernadette Ray, who made the hire and will take over as the school's principal in July for retiring Dan Besett, said Cocke' has established a reputation for integrity and winning, which made him an ideal candidate.
"We've had a successful program," Ray said. "Dave brought us to a level of success that we are really thankful for, and we had to think about who is going to be able to take us to the next level.
"Mike is the candidate who stood out by far."
During the past 10 years, Cocke' led Foss to a 201-76 record and eight appearances in the state playoffs. Foss won a Class 2A state title in 2017, months after the school was reclassified from 3A, and returned to the semifinals in 2018.
"Being at Foss for 10 years has been an unbelievable experience, as far as the relationships I made and the success that we had," Cocke' said.
"I think with Wilson's situation, and me being a Tacoma guy and playing in the Narrows League, the opportunity to get back into Tacoma basketball at the 3A level was very intriguing."
Cocke' said the decision to leave Foss, which was his first head-coaching position, after growing the program over a decade was difficult.
"The kids that were there that we had the opportunity to coach — I poured everything into those kids," he said. "The relationships and memories I had with those kids made me a better person.
"I care about the players still there, and hope they continue to have a ton of success."
He said everyone involved with basketball at the school contributed to the Falcons' success on the court.
"I'm appreciative to the administration at Foss and everybody that was there — from my assistant coaches to players," Cocke' said. "You're only as good as the people around you."
But, Cocke', who played high school basketball at Stadium, said the opportunity to take over Wilson's program was too good to pass up.
Two of his assistants from Foss, Chris Hyppa and Phil Corbin, have already agreed to move with him.
The Rams graduated six seniors — including reigning TNT All-Area player of the year Emmitt Matthews Jr., who is headed to West Virginia — this season, but Cocke' said a good core group is returning.
Juniors Daniel Santana and Kiwanis Thomas, and sophomores Emani Mitchell, Damani Green and Dominique Ellison each averaged significant minutes for the Rams in 2018.
Wilson finished 21-8, advancing to the 3A state quarterfinals in the Tacoma Dome.
"It's the same recipe, just different jerseys, putting our own spin on things and trying to get kids to buy into the team concept and play for each other," Cocke' said.
Cocke' leaving Foss created the third boys basketball coach vacancy in less than a month for Tacoma Public Schools, with Alwert and longtime Lincoln coach Aubrey Shelton resigning within days of each other in May.
Alwert, Cocke' and Shelton each leaving their respective positions ends more than a decade of the three coaching against each other. All three took over at their previous schools within a season of each other.
Shelton was hired at Lincoln in 2007 to replace Tim Kelly, who left for his alma-mater Curtis and remains the coach there. Alwert was hired at Wilson and Cocke' took over at Foss in 2008.
The other two city schools have had more turnover. Jason Townsend has been been at Mount Tahoma the past four seasons, and Eric Overgaard just wrapped up his second season at Stadium.
Cocke' said he did not apply for Shelton's job at Lincoln, which has not yet been filled.
"I'm a Foss guy, and Foss guys don't go to Lincoln," he laughed.
Ray said Wilson had several strong applicants, screening 14 and interviewing three before selecting Cocke'.
"We had a very strong pool, and I did my best to encourage those folks (who weren't hired) to look at the others," Ray said.
"Tacoma basketball is where it's at, and I think Tacoma can be competitive with the Metro League if people go where they're supposed to go."