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Basketball coaching legend Markey dies at 76

Beth Bragg

Clair Markey, a basketball coach whose up-tempo style of play influenced players all over Alaska, died last week. He was 76.

Markey coached at the high school, college and even the professional level in Alaska, spending part of 1981 as the coach of the Anchorage Northern Lights of the old Continental Basketball Association.

He won state high school championships at Juneau Douglas in 1969 and Lathrop High in Fairbanks in 1972. After creating an NAIA basketball program at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau in the 1980s, he turned the men's team into one of the nation's highest scoring teams.

He also coached high school teams in Barrow and Wrangell and for years helped at summer camps in Juneau.

Markey's teams were famous for playing fast-paced basketball and his early teams introduced a new brand of ball to many Alaskans.

"He brought transition basketball to Alaska,'' Mike Dunlap, the new head coach of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats and a former player for Markey, said in a 2010 Daily News interview.

"His style of play was different for Alaska. I remember as a boy watching (the Malemutes) in fascination."

Markey's Alaska Southeast team averaged 97.6 points per game in 1987-88, fifth-most in the NAIA that season. The next season, his team racked up a 117-103 victory over UAF, an NCAA Division II team.

In a 1988 Daily News interview, Markey pointed out the difference between run-and-gun teams and the kind of teams he put on the court.

"We really push the ball," he said. "A lot of people will classify that as running and gunning. Running and gunning to me means you are not taking a percentage shot.

"We're looking for the percentage shot. I get a possession, you get a possession. It's how many points per possession you score. It's tempo. We go after a make or a miss. Defense has got to be a real element there. We say we're in transition all the time."

Markey was born in Nebraska and raised in Washington.

He played in college and briefly coached at Seattle University, where his teammates included Elgin Baylor. He played on the 1957-58 Seattle team that lost to Kentucky in the national championship game, the Seattle Times reported.

He also coached at Tacoma Community College, where his players included Anchorage legends Tony Turner and Gerald Brown.

Though he died in Peoria, Ariz., Markey and his wife Brenda lived in Juneau after Markey's retirement from coaching and teaching in 1996.


Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.

Anchorage Daily News