Pete Lukich (left), with colleague Jeff Erdman, coached boys golf and boys basketball at Sunset before becoming AD in 1996.
Pete Lukich (left), with colleague Jeff Erdman, coached boys golf and boys basketball at Sunset before becoming AD in 1996.

One of the state's longest-tenured athletic directors is stepping aside.

Pete Lukich is retiring after 43 years at Sunset, the last 27 as athletic director. He will be replaced by former Century athletic director Dennis Rice.

“In the last five or six months, as I thought about it, I knew it was time,” Lukich said.

Lukich, 68, started at Sunset in 1980. He coached boys golf for 11 years and assisted in boys basketball for 16 years before becoming the athletic director in 1996. He became an institution at Sunset. a guiding force in the Metro League and an influential figure at the state level.

“I enjoyed what I do,” Lukich said. “I woke up every morning excited to go to work. There was never a day when it was like, 'I don't want to go to work today.' I was always excited. I think it was because of the interaction with athletic directors, coaches and students.”

Lukich provided an example for athletic directors across the state. Jeff Erdman, the former Putnam and Clackamas athletic director, called Lukich a “big-time leader” among his peers, praising him for his commitment, preparation and emphasis on ethics.

“Pete Lukich is one of the best, if not the best, athletic director that I've ever been around,” Erdman said. “He's really good at conducting meetings and giving people a chance to give their input. He's really good at listening to people and bringing them together for a common good.”

An original member of OSAA rankings committee, Lukich was instrumental in the association's implementation of power rankings to determine playoff seeding in 2013. He has helped the committee shape the formula over the years.

“I believe it's good,” Lukich said. “It's not a perfect science, but it's more accurate in placing teams in the bracket so that the best teams move forward. The data bear that out. It's intent has accomplished that. We haven't tweaked it in a long time.”

Lukich graduated in 1973 from Franklin, where he played golf and basketball. He attended the University of Oregon and was a volunteer basketball coach for four years under Ken Harris at Churchill. Harris left Churchill in 1980 to become the coach at Sunset.

“He asked me to come with him, and the rest is history,” Lukich said of Harris, who won 360 games and one state title in 24 seasons at Sunset.

As athletic director, Lukich was purposeful in guiding coaches to act with integrity and cultivate character in athletes.

“It's more than Xs and Os,” Lukich said. “It's about the mental game and capturing the heart.”

Lukich was gratified by the progress he witnessed in Sunset coaches in recent years.

“We were finding fulfillment in the purpose of why we do what we do,” he said. “We're kind of spreading that message. Our last six or seven years, our culture has really blossomed with the coaches.”

Erdman said that Lukich has held coaches to a high standard.

“He never allowed any of his coaches to circumvent the rules,” Erdman said. “He followed the rules with the highest character. If the rules weren't very good, then he was going to go out, get athletic directors to try to change the rules the right way.”

To help provide direction for athletic directors, Lukich and former Aloha athletic director Tom Bendt have organized a group of about 50 collegues that act as “state ambassadors.” For the past couple years, Lukich has sent daily morning emails to the group.

“It's about character, positive treatment of other people, about learning, improving yourself,” Erdman said. “It's every day, not just Monday through Friday. It's like a cup of coffee now. For him to put that time in to care about others, it just shows what type of person he is.”

Lukich has been working with the OSAA to develop “Beyond The Scoreboard,” an initiative based on the philosophy espoused by author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek. Lukich described BTS as an “operating system” for athletic programs, and is working toward including it as part of a required course for first-year coaches.

“I think it's a catalyst for schools to start implementing intentionality when they're coaching their athletes, and the culture of their school, dealing with items that are beyond the scoreboard,” Lukich said.