posted November 23, 2009

Coaching Legend Russ DeVette Dies at Age 86

A memorial service celebrating the life of Russ DeVette will be held Friday, Dec. 4, at 11 a.m. at Christ Memorial Church in Holland. Visitation will be Thursday, Dec. 3, from 1-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., also at Christ Memorial Church.

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Russell (Russ) B. DeVette, teacher and coach at Hope College for four decades, died Monday, Nov. 23, at Hospice House in Holland, Mich. following a long illness. He was 86 years of age.

"Russ DeVette is a man I greatly respect and admire. For many of us who had the privilege of playing for him and coaching with him, he was a father figure of pervasive positive influence," said Hope College president James E. Bultman. "While his athletic and coaching achievements are legendary, I'll always remember him as a man who lived his life with extraordinary Christian convictions. I'll miss him."

DeVette taught and coached at Hope for nearly 40 years, from 1948 until retiring in 1988 as professor emeritus of physical education.

An outstanding basketball player at Hope in the 1940s, he was the first recipient of
the most valuable player award from the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA).

At times in his Hope career he coached three sports in the same school year.  He coached the men's basketball team from 1948-51 and from 1956 to 1977. He was also the head football coach from 1955 to 1969. He remained on the football coaching staff as defensive coordinator through 1987.  He also served as head coach in both baseball and women's track.  The teams combined to win 14 MIAA championships.

In 2007 the Hope College Alumni H-Club presented him the "Hope for Humanity Award." A holiday men's basketball tournament is named in his honor.  The main basketball gymnasium in the college's DeVos Fieldhouse honors him and his wife Doris.

DeVette enrolled at Hope in 1941 from Muskegon as a member of the Class of 1945, but his education was interrupted by service in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and he returned and completed his degree in 1947.  During his pre-war years as a student he was a member of the 1942-43 "Blitz Kids," the first Hope men's basketball team to go undefeated in MIAA play.  In 1947, he was the first player ever to receive the MIAA Most Valuable Player Award in basketball.

After graduating from Hope with degree in history education he went on to the University of Michigan for a master's in physical education before returning to the college to teach and coach.

He served an additional three years in the Marina Corps in the 1950s and coached basketball one year at the Universityn of Maine before returning to Hope.

As a member of the faculty he developed the college's physical education minor, and also served as the athletic director and chairperson of the department.  In 1986 he co-authored the book "Coaching Basketball:  The Complete Book from Beginning to Championship Play" with faculty colleague Dr. William Vanderbilt, a 1961 Hope graduate who as a student had played for DeVette.

DeVette was head coach of the men's basketball team from 1948 to 1951 and from 1956 to 1977.  Over 24 seasons, his basketball teams captured nine MIAA championships and one NCAA regional crown.  He was also head football coach from 1955 to 1969, during which period the team won two MIAA titles, and he remained on the football coaching staff as defensive coordinator through 1987.  He also served as head coach in both baseball and women's track; his baseball teams won league championships in 1953 and 1954, and his women's track team won league championships in 1981, 1982 and 1988.

DeVette was named the Michigan NAIA Coach of the Year in basketball for 1956-57.  From 1975 to 1981, he was a member of the first basketball committee for the NCAA Division III, serving as the committee's chairperson during the last two years.  In 1989, he was inducted into the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame.

The college's annual Russ DeVette Holiday Tournament in basketball is named in his honor.  During the tournament in December 2005, the main basketball gymnasium in the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse was named the "DeVette-Van Wieren Gymnasium" in recognition of him and his wife Doris, and current coach Dr. Glenn Van Wieren and Van Wieren's wife Jackie, for their decades-long service to Hope.  Glenn Van Wieren, who has been head basketball coach since 1977, is a 1964 Hope graduate and played basketball for DeVette as a Hope student.

DeVette was a member of the Holland City Council for three terms, from 1975 to 1987.  His community service through the years has also included coaching and mentoring the Ottawa Hustlers, a basketball team comprised of adults with learning disabilities; Meals on Wheels; Evergreen Day Health; teaching English as a second language with Community Education; The Bridge Store; and serving on the board of Camp Geneva.  He was a charter member of Christ Memorial Church of Holland.

Surviving are his wife, Doris, of 60 years; children and grandchildren, Christi and Glenn Hayden of White­hall (Keith and Jeff), Lynne and David Bouvea of Phoenix, AZ, Joel and Crystal DeVette of Holland (Lisa, Dan, and Heidi), Steven and Shelia DeVette of Grandville (Mike and Brad), Kurt and Jianna DeVette of Holland (Caleigh, Jordanna, and Jarrod), Lisa and Mark Werley of Zeeland (Kirsten, Megan, Ben, Madi­son, and Braden); brother, Ben and Becky DeVette of Grahm, NC; sisters, Kathy Bremer of Detroit and Mar­lene Dykstra of Muskegon; sister-in-law, Joyce Lubbers of Tallahassee, FL.

A memorial service will be held Friday, Dec. 4, at 11 a.m. at Christ Memorial Church in Holland. Visitation will be Thursday, Dec. 3, from 1-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., also at Christ Memorial Church.