Former University of Idaho interim Athletic Director Pete Isakson, 48, who dedicated much of his free time to coaching Moscow’s youth, died Tuesday morning from a medical issue.
“We are devastated by the news of Pete’s passing,” UI President Scott Green said in a statement. “He was a valued leader, outstanding ambassador and a terrific friend to all of us at the University of Idaho. His positive attitude, desire to make change and work for the benefit of the common good drove him in his commitment to the university, his community and family.”
Isakson’s death was confirmed midday Tuesday by UI Communications Director Jodi Walker.
Isakson served as the interim athletic director from spring 2018 until this past summer and most recently served as the senior director of development for special projects in UI Advancement.
Beyond his role at UI, Isakson was a familiar and passionate presence on the youth sports sidelines in Moscow, where he coached Cal Ripken baseball for many years and was founder, figurehead and coach for the Moscow Sharks, a popular AAU basketball program with teams at multiple age levels.
Walker said she could not confirm a more specific cause of death.
“Pete stepped into a precarious position as interim athletic director but led with passion and student focus,” UI Athletic Director Terry Gawlik said in a statement. “I appreciate what he did during his time in athletics and the effort he made to provide all our athletes with the quality student life, education and athletic experience they deserve.”
“Pete was a devoted member of the Vandal Family, who served the University of Idaho with optimism, energy and an abiding love for the institution and its people, especially student-athletes,” Mary Kay McFadden, vice president of Advancement, said in a statement.“He was the ultimate team player, who re-integrated athletics into the broader campus community. His desire to help all students succeed was evident in everything he did.”
After 14 years as an administrator at Washington State, Isakson returned to the University of Idaho in February, 2017, as associate athletic director, his third stint at UI. He was the assistant director for marketing and sales for two years in the mid-1990s, then returned to the school in the late ’90s as the assistant athletic director for development, marketing and promotions.
Isakson’s wife, Kelly, is the co-owner of Moscow Mountain Sport & Physical Therapy in Moscow. The Isaksons have three children, Cody, Connor and Kendall, who attend Moscow public schools.
Moscow’s Andy Kiblen said he coached alongside Isakson nearly every athletic season — baseball, basketball and even a year of football — the past seven years.
“He was a great friend and a great mentor,” Kiblen said. “He was a real five-star guy. When he was in, he was all in. A type-A personality … who was always willing to help and to teach.”
Kiblen said Isakson expected his players, on the court and off, to bring a similar passion.
Moscow Sharks’ players and coaches hosted a popular annual basketball clinic in Moscow for children with disabilities.
“Whether we were at a Moscow Bear game or a Vandal game, if we were wearing Sharks gear we were there to represent our families, our team and our community,” Kiblen said. “That was the enthusiasm he would bring every day.”
Former University of Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan posted this to his Twitter page on Tuesday: “Pete Isakson valued me and so many others, always took the time to talk to me. A real family man, great example for his kids and the student athletes he was responsible for. My heart goes out to his family.”
Washington State University women’s tennis coach Lisa Hart tweeted this: “Pete was an amazing person and friend, will be missed by so many!”
According to the Idaho Vandals Athletics Facebook page, a memorial service for Isakson is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at the Moscow Church of the Nazarene. A “post-game” gathering will immediately follow at the Latah County Fairgrounds and Events Center. Attendees are asked to wear Idaho Vandal or Moscow High Bear gear.