Kevin Luckey remembers a lot of people saying that Napa Valley College was never going to hire someone from a high school to run its physical education and athletic department.
Luckeys response to that?
You never know until you throw your name in the hat, he said.
He added, I think high school guys have a lot to offer.
Luckey, a University of Oregon graduate and successful head football coach who is respected for his work around the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section, got the job.
In November of 2006, he went to work at NVC as the dean of P.E. and athletics. At the time, he was working at Vanden High School in Fairfield as assistant principal and the Vikings athletic director.
I knew immediately when I walked in that I was around good people good people who wanted to go someplace, wanted to make things happen, good people who really cared about this division and this college, he said.
Almost seven years have passed by and so much has happened at Napa Valley.
There are banners from wall to wall in Storm Gym, recognizing and commemorating Golden Valley Conference, Camino Norte Conference and Bay Valley Conference titles won by NVC teams.
There is an Athletic Hall of Fame.
There is a womens soccer team.
NVC has Luckey, the Storms athletic director, to thank.
Kevin has done an outstanding job of bringing people together in tough times and getting the best out of them. His commitment to the success of NVCs students in life and in sports speaks volumes about who he is as a person and an educator, said Sue Nelson, NVC vice president of instruction.
He will be missed by all.
Luckeys last day at NVC is June 30. He is stepping down and leaving the college so that he can spend more time with his family. He plans to be at his place at Lake Almanor, located in Plumas County in northeastern California, more and more, as he loves to fly fish and play golf.
Being in the mountains reminds him of his days of growing up in Oregon. He was a standout quarterback at Thurston High School in Springfield, Ore. He walked on at Oregon State and played on the freshman football team as a halfback and defensive back.
Things are going pretty well right now, he said last week. Weve done some good things here. Weve collaborated, we work as a team through some difficult times and kept moving forward. Weve got a team here, a group of outstanding people who, if the right leader is in position, will continue to move things forward. And thats what I want to see.
I feel very good about the fact that we have worked together, No. 1. This is a time where, even though there were tremendous budget shortfalls in the state, I think a lot of people would perceive that we still did OK. And the reason for that was that we always maintained a can-do attitude. With each particular challenge, we basically went forward with that attitude.
Instilling leadership, pride and spirit
With his background and experiences as a head coach and administrator, Luckey brought immediate credibility and leadership to Napa Valley. He had a five-year plan for the athletic department. He instilled pride and spirit, having a presence at games, showing his support for coaches and student-athletes, welcoming the community to those events and making sure everyone felt right at home.
As the lead administrator for the division, Luckey has done his job with class, integrity and honor. He has been an outstanding leader, overseeing faculty, coaches, staff and students. He has been responsible for programs that serve 4,000 students enrolled annually at the college, including the Storms nine intercollegiate teams. An annual average of 75 percent of all sophomore student-athletes participating in organized team sports at NVC transfer to four-year schools.
Luckey has helped organize national letter-of-intent signing ceremonies for athletes such as Trevor Diskin (baseball), Brandon Cole (basketball), Stephanie Carrillo (soccer), and Hillary Domecus (volleyball).
In Luckeys time here, the Storm has won five conference titles and made several Northern California playoff appearances. The schools Hall of Fame has 14 members, a combination of athletes and faculty.
Im proud of what weve done and where were going, he said. Im proud of my staff. I love them. That will be the thing I miss most. I also think that the college has been as supportive as it can be during these times and thats truly important to the success of any athletic program.
I think were competing well in every sport right now. We have the potential to become very, very good. Im proud that we have healthy programs.
To me, its not just about wins. Its about, do we have full rosters? Do we compete? Are we transferring students to four-year colleges? Are we providing that kind of program that fosters that? And the fact is, we are.
Thanks to the work of Nadine Wade-Gravett and Kelly McCann, NVC now offers a kinesiology major as part of its PE curriculum. The classes are packed, Luckey said.
There have been capital improvements at the school, such as the addition of the North gym and team rooms at Storm Gym. The athletic fields are also in good shape.
When I think about leaving, the one thing that pulls at me is the fact that I have tremendous relationships with people our instructors and our coaching staff, the faculty and staff around campus and the administration, Luckey said. There are a lot of people who supported us and me personally. I appreciate that and will miss that.
As a community college, there is so much that NVC has to offer, both academically and athletically.
Most people are not DI prospects, most people are not even DII prospects when theyre in high school, said Luckey. But they come here, they have a chance for a great education, for a great athletic experience. And then who knows what will happen.
Football coaching background
Luckey was just 24 years old when he became head football coach at Thurston High, his alma mater. He was there for five years and was later the head coach at Oregon Tech in Klamath Falls for three years.
During his eight years as head coach at Vanden, Luckey had the Vikings in the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs four times.
He was also the head coach at Florin-Sacramento, which ended Elk Groves 45-game Delta League winning streak.
The athletic department is thriving because of the vision Kevin had when he came here, with the addition of womens soccer, the Hall of Fame, priority registration for student athletes and the Storm Golf Classic, said Bob Freschi, the Storms head baseball coach and assistant AD. Kevin has done a wonderful job as the athletic director. It has been a privilege to work with Kevin as his assistant athletic director and to be a coach under his leadership.
I wish him the best in his retirement.
I could see just how much Luckey enjoys the mountains. It was last summer when I made the drive from Graeagle to Lake Almanor to play golf with him at Bailey Creek. Unfortunately, it rained like crazy that day and drove us all inside.
The golf got canceled, but he came up with another plan. He took Karen, my wife, and I on a sightseeing trip around the lake. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant along the way.
He has a beautiful home that sits up high overlooking the lake. Its only about 400 feet from the water.
I focus on the beauty, the slower pace of life, he said. The wildlife is awesome.
Email Napa Valley Register Executive Sports Editor Marty James at email@example.com or call 256-2223.
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