by Danny Barnts, sports information director
Universities are traditionally a place where careers begin, but every once in a while Western Oregon has the opportunity to celebrate the career of an individual that has been committed to helping move the university forward. The man who the Wolves' athletic department can credit with being the driving force to institute change is Jon Carey. Not only has Carey served the athletic department for 36 years he was the figure head behind a women’s basketball powerhouse and the Wolves’ ascension to NCAA Division II.
Many things have changed at Western Oregon over the past 36 years but there remained one constant, Jon Carey roaming the sidelines. It all began for the Stayton native back on the football field where he was a volunteer assistant coach with the team starting in 1975. He would continue to serve as an assistant with the football team for 13 seasons, and would also take on the role of head coach of the women's basketball team in 1978.
Carey served the next 16 years at the helm of the women's basketball program, winning nearly 75 percent of his games (369-126) and leading the team to the NAIA finals. During Carey’s tenure Western Oregon women's basketball experienced the pinnacle of its program. He coached the Wolves to 13 of the school's 16 20-win seasons, including reaching that plateau in eight straight seasons. Apart from leading WOU to conference championships in each of his first nine seasons, and in 13 of 16 seasons, Carey's squads also experienced National success. The Wolves qualified for the NAIA Nationals in each of Carey's last four seasons (1990-94), including reaching the Finals in 1994.
Athletic director era
During his final season at the helm, Carey also assumed the role of athletic director, a position he would hold for the next 17 years. During that run Western Oregon athletics would experience many of its greatest accomplishments. In 1995 it was the Western Oregon women's basketball team winning the NAIA National Championship, with many of the women who had also played under Carey. The women's basketball team would repeat for the National Championship in 1996, which still stands as Western Oregon’s last National Championship. Carey would then lead the Western Oregon's move to NCAA Division II in 2000-2001 and its acceptance into the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. Carey then helped assemble the most well-rounded sports program in the GNAC during the 2007-08 academic year, as Western Oregon won its only Great Northwest Athletic Conference All-Sports Trophy.
Director of athletic projects
Carey also managed to leave his legacy on the new Health and Wellness Center as the representative from the athletic department. Carey helped advocate for the inclusion of a new athletic training room, equipment room, locker room and football coaches' offices in the planning of the project. Carey’s commitment to seeing the project completed as planned kept him with Western Oregon three months after his scheduled retirement date. However, he felt it was important that he stick around to see the athletic areas in the Health and Wellness Center and lay the groundwork for all future athletic facility upgrades.
Now seizing the opportunity of retirement Carey has taken on a number of different projects to occupy his time. In November, Carey was elected to the Monmouth City Council.
The greens are also calling Carey’s name for what he described as “a pretty active golf schedule” which will run into the fall. While he does not expect to win the U.S. Senior Tour, Carey is looking forward to the chance to play consistently and competitively. He will be participating in the Oregon Senior Amateur Tour in September.
Jon and his wife, Kim, plan to remain in Monmouth and have no plans to leave with city council, golf, family and maybe even coaching to occupy his time. But even if Carey is not seen roaming the sidelines at every home game in the future, he has left a legacy at Western Oregon University as a true leader of the Wolves.