Eli Juarez


Juarez started playing ball in unexpected places and led him to become the first Latino in the WIBCA Hall of Fame. He was one of seven children of Eliseo and Rosa Juarez, migrant farmworkers who settled in Wapato, Wash during the school year and took the family to various places during the summer living in migrant camps picking berries, tree fruit and working hops. He recounted his first memories of playing at migrant camps, “We’d pick strawberries, raspberries and then after the day was done, I’d go play pickup games against older kids in the other camps or at the park with my brothers- wherever we could find open space really and then get back to work the next day and this was 4th 5th grade.”

At all levels of his youth, he gives credit to adults who took great interest in him and teachers and coaches that provided role models at every turn “I have been incredibly lucky to have people that I was able to learn from. Everyone from the person sweeping the floors in the gyms, people opening up the space for me to play, and coaches, I had a lot of people that showed me hard work, dedication, and were taking an interest in me and helped shape who I was becoming.” He calls them “old school guys” and community people that largely operated with “my way or the highway” mindsets but they instilled a deep commitment to hard work and respect.

Eventually, he moved from the farm labor camps to school sports and excelled in football, baseball, and basketball. His skill playing basketball was quickly eclipsing the others and his talents earned him accolades at Wapato High. Juarez knew he wanted to play where his family could see him. “What’s the point in playing for strangers and there was no way my mom was going to let me go far!” His parents were still working in the fields picking berries and a school close to them and his siblings was critically important in his decision for college.

He chose to play at Walla Walla Community College with his brother, George, and then Whitman where the “integration of scholastics and athletics was inextricable, and I knew what I did in the classroom was linked to what I did on the court.” And his decision to stay near the Yakima Valley, ultimately was rewarded with his family seeing him play in games and met Brenda Hartline, a Walla Walla CC basketball standout in her own right, who would eventually become his wife and with whom he would build his career across Central Washington.

His love of coaching started while at Whitman when he took on coaching a local AAU team and he found his calling almost immediately. “I knew right away, working with kids, teaching, and helping them grow into good adults was how I wanted to spend my time.” He looked forward to opportunities to work with kids outside classes and his own basketball schedule and earned his teaching credentials. “Teaching and coaching go hand in hand. It is important to see kids working in the classroom and on the court. Having that person in the school building matters and I wanted to be there.”

Juarez started coaching in Dayton, WA where the small-town spirit and long tradition of basketball success was “amazing.” He recalled how it shaped the coach he is today “We would win early and often. I benefited from early success so I never felt like I

needed to prove anything and wonder if I could win as a coach.” After leading Dayton, he was recruited to take over the Wenatchee program. “We won 2 games the first year, then 4 the second, then 8, then 16. It took a long time to build a program that had no history of basketball success.” At Wenatchee he had a long-serving squad of assistant coaches that stayed with him for over a decade; Larry Schreck, Russ Waterman, Tim Trainor, and Robin Kansky. He credits their loyalty and dedication to making that time enjoyable.

Then, it was time to move closer to home. Once again, moving his career based on family, it was time to be closer to his parents and siblings and returned to the Yakima Valley to lead the team at his alma mater, Wapato, before making the move back to the Big9 and leading Davis High. “I knew I wanted to end my career at the 4A level and in the Big9. It was a solid move for me and my family. The opportunity that Davis gave me to come home and coach a school with a solid tradition of basketball success was unbelievable. It has been an honor to continue the Pirate tradition. I have always said I would coach until it isn’t fun anymore and there has not been a single day while at Davis that has not been absolute fun.” He credits the supportive community, administrators, and families at Davis who have all come together to make this time so special and impactful in his career. “Davis is a place where it feels like we are doing great stuff on and off the court and the kids are just exceptionally hard workers and there is a sense of pride and family in our shared work.”

He eventually led Davis to the state championship in 2012, 2nd place in 2015 and led the Pirates to numerous (9+) appearances at the state tournament with his current assistants, Bob Harris, David Trimble, Raul Alvarado, Vicente Sanchez.

He credits his success unsurprisingly, to his wife, teams, family, coaches, and role models like his father who played a huge role in shaping his work ethic, sense of fairness, and commitment to education.

He has had the pleasure of coaching his 2 sons (E.J and Marshall) and daughter (Cierra) He has spent his career doing exactly what makes him happy- spending time with his family and friends, while shaping kids’ character through athletics and academics with people he enjoys.

Juarez is a first-generation American who holds the distinction of records at two Big9 schools for most winning coach in boys’ basketball (Wenatchee and Davis), and two undefeated regular seasons at Dayton. Additionally, he has been named Big9 Coach of the Year multiple times and is the longest tenured Big9 coach in the league’s history with 25+ years as a head coach in the Columbia Basin Big Nine League.