The professional career of Jack Riley of Corvallis is remembered for excellence in coaching baseball. But at Linfield, he made an impact on both the basketball court and the baseball diamond, playing both sports for coach Roy Helser.
After graduation from Portland's Grant High School, Jack was thinkingof attending Washington State University or Lewis and Clark College. He was playing in Coquille in the old semi-pro State League. Roy Helser was coach of the Drain Black Sox.
"Linfielder Vern Marshall told Roy about me. I joined the Black Sox a week later and I decided to go to Linfield. My coach at Grant, Paul McCall, was not a Linfield grad, but convinced me to go to Linfield over WSU by asking me if I wanted to be a little fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little pond. It was good advice," Jack said.
For Linfield he was a starting guard for the Wildcats (1957 through 1960 --Northwest Conference champs each year), he was described in The Oregonian sports coverage as a "whirling dervish" . . . "quick-handed" . . . and "virtually uncheckable." He was called a "firebrand" who "hawked the ball, passed cleverly, dribbled effectively, played good defense and, most important of all fired home buckets of points via field goals and freethrows."
He was all-Northwest Conference all four years and a two-time All-American. In his sophomore, junior and senior years he was the conference's leading scorer. In 1957 and 1958, he helped lead Linfield men's basketball to the NCAA small college playoffs. Both years, the Wildcats beat Northwest Conference opponents Pacific and Willamette, respectively, in opening-round competition at South Salem High School. Both years, they advanced to second round games in California, losing to Los Angeles State in 1957 and to Chapman College of Orange, Calif., and Chico State in 1958. Jack suffered a shoulder separation against Chapman and did not play against Chico. In 1959 the Linfield team played in the NAIA National Basketball Tournament in Kansas City.
But Jack's first sports love was baseball. He was a three-time all-Northwest Conference outfielder for the Wildcats. He signed a professional contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers and played two years for its Salem Dodgers minor-league team. From 1960 to 1967 he was an assistant baseball coach and from 1962-67 head boys basketball coach at Portland's Jefferson High School.
From 1967-1972, Riley was head coach in baseball at Lower Columbia College in Longview, Wash., and the college's basketball coach and athletic director and 1970-72 . In 1973 he joined Oregon State University as its head baseball coach and led the Beavers for 22 seasons (1973-1994). His teams won 615 games, ranking him third among all coaches in OSU athletic history. The teams, including his last, won five Pac-10 Northern Division titles and he was named the division's coach of the year each time and regional coach of the year once. As the OSU coach, he was a national coach of the year finalist and his teams competed in three NCAA national baseball championship tournaments. From 1990-1994, Riley served on the NCAA national baseball rules committee and as American Association of College Baseball Coaches District 8 executive committee representative.