Fife mourns school superintendent John McCrossin, perhaps best known as a coach who loved basketball

Educator and coach John McCrossin — who held the Fife School District’s top job as superintendent for just more than a year — died Tuesday following a bout with cancer.

The 58-year-old McCrossin was a longtime administrator in the Fife School District. But he was perhaps best known as a basketball coach. He was formerly head coach at Fife High School, at Sumner High School and at Lincoln High School in Tacoma.

For the past three years, McCrossin had been a volunteer assistant coach for the men’s basketball team at the University of Puget Sound.

“I never met a man with more passion or love for the game of basketball than John,” said his friend Kevin Ringus, who is a judge in Fife’s municipal court. “He was a student of the game.”

When it came to coaching, Ringus said, McCrossin believed “there was no winning and losing. It was winning and learning.”

Ringus volunteered as an assistant coach at Fife while McCrossin was head coach. He remembers weekly Sunday night gatherings at the McCrossin home, where coaches would gather to prepare for the week’s games.

“He was a wonderful mentor and leader,” Ringus said.

Assistant Fife Superintendent Kevin Alfano said McCrossin brought a “tireless work ethic and can-do attitude” to his work as superintendent.

“He wore many hats not just for the school district, but for the community,” Alfano said. “His love for this community cannot be matched.”

McCrossin and his wife Connie, a Lincoln teacher, raised their two sons, Kyle and Kevin, in Fife. The family chose to make Fife their home, even as McCrossin’s career took him from Fife to Tacoma and elsewhere in Pierce County.

The son of a military family, McCrossin moved to the Northwest as a young man in the 1970s. He graduated from Lakes High School in Lakewood. He joined the U.S. Navy, then attended Tacoma Community College and Western Washington University.

He began his career in education as a teacher in Fife in 1982. After taking coaching positions first in Tacoma and then in Sumner, he became assistant principal at Puyallup High School, returning to Fife as assistant principal at Fife High in 2000. He was principal at Fife High from 2002 to 2007.

He held a series of administrative jobs in the Fife School District before being named superintendent in July 2013, following the departure of 12-year superintendent Steve McCammon.

Fife’s two assistant superintendents — Alfano and Ben Ramirez — will co-lead the district until the school board has time to act.

The school district is planning a public memorial service in the coming weeks. Details will be announced soon, Alfano said.