Coach Sollars, seniors say farewell to The Bluff

By The Beacon | March 6, 2014 1:49am

By Mitchell Gilbert |

Saturday March 1, marked the last day head coach Jim Sollars will coach the women’s basketball team in the Chiles Center. He has coached at UP for 28 years, 11 years of which he also taught in the history department. He has coached the Pilots to nearly 400 wins in his career, is currently ranked second all time in the WCC with 166 wins, and has been named the league Coach of the Year five times.

People came from all over Portland to celebrate the career of a coach who has been an instrumental member of the community since the beginning of his career 28 years ago.  It was apparent throughout the game that the members of the community, past and present players, and friends of the Sollars’, respect and admire him, not only as a basketball coach, but as a genuine person.

“Coach Sollars was always looking at my overall well-being as a person. He would never put himself first,” senior Amy Pupa said. “That was important to me. I felt like I was part of his family. He has such a great life and such great wisdom to share, both on and off the court.”

The event contained multiple speakers, including the coach himself. In Sollars’ speech he thanked the University and his players for the years that he has spent in the program. Sollars was also presented with a UP rocking chair and a basket of wine and crackers to commemorate his time spent here.

The Pilots fought hard in their final game of the season, but fell to Saint Mary’s 76-72. The Pilots have another chance to win it for their coach though, with the quarterfinals of the WCC championship against Pacific University coming up on March 7 in Las Vegas, Nev.

“They played hard out there,” said Sollars.  “I was very pleased with the effort. They played hard, and you have to be happy with that.”

The day was not only a day of celebration and reminiscence for Sollars, but for his three seniors as well. Amy Pupa, Alexis Byrd, and Elyse Snyder all played their last home game for the Pilots.

“I definitely loved my senior day. It was an honor to be brought out onto the court with my family and in front of my friends,” Pupa said.  “It was a really special day for Coach.”

After the game played a video celebrating the career of Sollars with pictures and interviews from past and present players. Many of the players spoke of how he made them feel like they were members of his family, and said Sollars treated them as though they were his own daughters. They also told stories about the quirky things he says at practice, and the intensity that he brings out on the court every single day.

Coach Sollars has had a successful career at UP, with a beginning goal that many can agree has been achieved.

“I want to leave the program in as good of shape as I got it. I inherited a great group of kids back in the day,” Sollars said. “And I hope that is the legacy I leave with. And I think that I have done that, and I believe that the program will get even better.”