The seeds for football coach Steve Pyne's move from Central Catholic to Union of Vancouver – announced by the schools Thursday – were planted last summer.
Union first-year athletic director Lamont Woods contacted Pyne in July to gauge his interest in the job after coach Rory Rosenbach resigned to become the athletic director at Glacier Peak High School in Snohomish.
The relationship between Pyne and Woods goes back to 1990, when Pyne was the offensive line coach at Corvallis and Woods was a running back.
“I said, 'If you guys are serious about this, then maybe after the season we can talk, and we'll see where it leads,'” Pyne said,
Pyne won his fifth 6A title at Central Catholic last season, giving him the most big-school championships of any coach in Oregon history. By going 13-0, he improved his record to 194-54 in 21 seasons with the Rams.
Union, the Washington big-school champion in 2018, went 2-7 under interim coach Kevin Coad in 2023. Woods restarted conversations with Pyne shortly after Central Catholic's season ended.
“We talked things out slowly, talked about things that needed to be in place,” Woods said.
Coaching on the other side of the Columbia River has long intrigued Pyne considering he lives in Vancouver and his wife, Erica, is an elementary school administrator in Vancouver. The opportunity was too good to pass up for Pyne.
“There's certainly a significant bump in pay,” said Pyne, who will teach weight training and PE at Union. “And it's a five-minute commute. And there's no income tax. I'm going to buy a scooter, and I'm going to save $300 to $400 in gas every month. Those are kind of the attractive things.”
Union rose to become one of Washington's premier programs under Rosenbach but slipped to 3-6 and 2-7 the last two seasons. Pyne is charged with getting the Titans back on track.
“They have a vision for what they want this thing to be,” Pyne said. “They've had great success over the years, and they want to get back to that. We're going to go to work and see if we can do that. I don't know if we can be great and win state championships. That's not what it's about for me anymore. It's really about developing kids and helping them become great young people.”
Woods said he started following Central Catholic football when his nephew, Silas Starr, was a standout receiver for the Rams. Starr was a senior on the team at Stanford last season.
“I've been a fan of Central Catholic ever since,” said Woods, whose sister, LaReina Starr, is an assistant track coach at Central Catholic.
Lamont Woods got a chance to see Pyne work up close.
“Just knowing that I know Steve, there's a trust factor there,” Woods said. “But I think the biggest thing is he's about kids, he's about the community. He just knows how to build a program. The list is just really long for me when I start thinking about what Steve has done and what he can bring to our community here.”
Pyne said that five of his assistant coaches from Central Catholic have committed to join him at Union: Matt Jones, Darren Wood, Chris Cooper, Matt Kramer and Ian Gaffney. Jones was the Rams' defensive coordinator.
“There's a possibility of a couple others, but that's to be determined,” Pyne said.
It will be the third head-coaching stop for Pyne. He went 21-17 in four seasons at Wilson (1999-2002) before taking over at Central Catholic.
As for his time with the Rams, Pyne said he “wouldn't trade it for anything.” Under Pyne, Central Catholic won 14 Mt. Hood Conference titles, appeared in the semifinals eight times and played in six finals.
“It was an unbelievable experience for me and my family,” he said. “It's a great community, and there's so much positive there. It wasn't so much about something going on at Central versus what my wife and I felt was the best for us moving forward. I was fortunate enough to have Union reach out. We started having conversations, and here we are.”