Well this is awkward… In a football season when both the Cougars and the Huskies are expected to be near the top of the Pac 12, a great bowl invitation might come down to the Apple Cup, when the big question will be whether the Husky D can stop the Mike Leach attack. One of the guys who’ll have to game-plan that scenario is former Cougar linebacker Bob Gregory, a product of Gonzaga Prep (and Cataldo before that). Now he’s back in the Evergreen State as the Huskies’ assistant head coach under Chris Petersen, in charge of linebackers and special teams.
“That’s kind of the path of a coach,” says Gregory between preseason practices in Seattle. “The joke among us coaches is that we’re all mercenaries, really. I loved my time at Washington State, but I’ve also coached at Oregon, Cal. Still, I’ve been hearing about it more since I came to Seattle.”
Gregory walked on to the Cougar squad in 1982, ultimately earning a starting linebacker job as a fifth-year senior. Although the two have never met, Gregory shares a playing trajectory with fellow Prep alum Steve Gleason. Both played for the ’Pups; both were undersized overachievers as Cougs (even if Gleason had at least 20 pounds on Gregory).
“Steve was a far better player than I ever was,” Gregory says. “What a remarkable individual — such a great example to all of us, with the grace that he has. I have such admiration for he and his family. I’m proud he’s a fellow alum.”
And his high school days still loom large, as he traces his coaching itch back to his days at G-Prep. “We had great teams, great coaches, great teachers — Don Anderson, Ron Long, Al Falkner, Tony Maucione. Those guys and so many more were role models for me. My plan from then on was to teach and to coach.”
And that’s just what he’s done. Gonzaga Prep President Al Falkner remembers how it all started, when he got an anxious call from Gregory in the late ’80s. His dream of joining a college football coaching staff was coming true, but Washington University in St. Louis also wanted him to coach baseball.
“He was more of a track and football guy,” Falkner recalls, “but he didn’t panic. He came over, we talked technique and approach, then we started going through my baseball coaching books.”
Gregory borrowed a stack to take with him to Missouri, and he was off and running. Soon he landed a graduate assistant gig at the University of Oregon, followed by a six-year run at Willamette University outside of Portland.
Today, Gregory’s coaching skills are well established, as he’s been helping lead statistically great defenses over the past two years at UW and previously at Boise State. This season, with the Huskies starting the season in the Top 10, it has a kind of get-the-gang-back-together feel, as his former boss at Cal, Jeff Tedford, joined the Huskies as an offensive consultant. Tedford, Petersen and Gregory are branches of the Mike Bellotti coaching tree, having coached under him at Oregon in the late 1990s.
After two stints in Eugene, then the Bay Area and Boise, Gregory says he, his wife Molly (also a Prep grad, when she was Molly Owens) and their two kids are loving being back close to home, even if it’s across the mountains from where it all started. And, yes, he’s aware that the Apple Cup could be a huge game this season — and a little tricky for him.
“Believe me,” Gregory laughs, after he recalls the craziness of the 1982 Apple Cup, when his Cougs bumped the Huskies out of the Rose Bowl. “I know people have strong loyalties. That’s football.”
— Story by Ted McGregor Jr. (’83)
A version of this article first appeared in the Inlander.