By Jeff Erickson
ANCHORAGE, AK (May 6, 2016) — Former Covenant pastor and educator Donald Erickson was inducted posthumously into the Alaska School Activity Association (AASA) Hall of Fame during a ceremony in front of an enthusiastic crowd here last Sunday.
It was quite the accomplishment for a man who had little athletic experience when he took over coaching duties at Covenant High School. In 1964 he and his family moved from Minnesota to serve on the denomination’s home mission field in Unalakleet, a tiny village on the eastern shores of the Bering Sea. The boarding school served about 100 local and dorm students.
The family and residents of the Inupiaq Eskimo village quickly fell in love with each other, said son Jeff. Erickson’s students came to refer to him as “Mr. E.”
As is often the case in private rural high schools, staff are recruited to positions beyond their expertise, and Erickson, with minimal athletic background, was soon asked to coach the boys’ basketball team, a group that already had a class C state championship under their belt.
Grabbing every coaching book he could find, Erickson quickly became a student of the game, and the team didn’t miss a beat, winning another state championship in 1965.
In 1971 the Wolverines came close to pulling off one of the greatest upsets in state history as they entered the All-Class State Championship. They were by far the smallest school and were bracketed to play their first-round game against Dimond, the largest school in the state.
The game wasn’t decided until the last six seconds, when Dimond sank a desperation shot to grab a 52-50 victory. The Wolverines went on to win their next two games and the consolation championship.
The AASA notes on its website that “the David vs. Goliath playoff game defined the anything-can-happen of March Madness Alaska.” Erickson finished his career with an 87-15 winning record and multiple western Alaska championships to go with the state title.