The Mercer Island High School athletic family lost one its kind souls.
Steve Newman, the likeable longtime Mercer Island High School boys soccer coach, passed away on Friday morning at age 58 from an apparent cardiac arrest, according to his older sister Valerie (Newman) Sils.
Newman, an avid outdoorsman born in Seattle, guided the Islanders to a pair of runner-up state finishes in 2001 and 2012. MI fell 3-2 to Bainbridge in the Class 3A state championship match last spring and 1-0 in shootout to Monroe in 2001.
But it was the contributions and caring side off the field by Newman that likely meant the most to his players throughout the years.
“He was the large marshmallow in our family, because he felt everything with a certain depth,” said Sils of her brother, who played professional soccer for four seasons, including one with the Seattle Sounders in 1979. “He was as reliable of a person as there was in our family. If there was something that someone needed, he would have it done.
“He never had kids of his own, but there was a great interest he took in his kids.”
Newman loved the game of soccer and it was in his life almost every minute of every day.
“He lived for this stuff,” said Sils of the game. “He spent his life going to soccer games. He just went to the SPU game on Thursday. He always had soccer games on TV, watching international games.
“He watched one when he came home on Thursday. He also had a soccer jersey from every place he visited.”
Newman was a graduate of Bellevue’s Newport High School in 1972. He went on to play forward for legendary coach Cliff McGrath at Seattle Pacific University for three seasons before turning pro.
Newman always owned a Labrador retriever – all but one was black — until his yellow lab Jake passed this year.
“Over the years I have made hundreds of speeches to corporations, sports’ teams, commencements, high schools and churches – and I can’t tell you how many times I told the audience about Steve – and his everywhere-he-went black Lab – Pele!” wrote McGrath in an e-mail expressing his condolences to Newman’s sister Sils and Judy Tassone. “I watched crowds laugh out loud when I explained that Pele – taught by Steve – could dribble better than most of my players.”
McGrath always admired his former player as a coach.
“He was a marvelous coach whose teams at Mercer Island were always a delight to watch – playing the game the way it was meant to be played – clearly reflecting the genius Steve possessed both in his understanding of the game as well as his peerless knowledge of handling kids,” McGrath relayed via e-mail.
Newman, one of four children, experienced some issues with atrial fibrillation about a year ago, but the family felt his recovery was going well.
“[His death] was a complete shock to us,” Sils said. “He’d been feeling well the last six months. He was just cleared a week ago to go scuba diving again, and he just went to Honduras on a scuba diving trip.
“He was put on blood-pressure medication, lost 25 pounds and was able to exercise more.”
Newman started his pro career behind first-round draft pick Kyle Rote Jr. in 1978 with the Dallas Tornado of the North American Soccer League (NASL).
He was named KingCo 3A/2A Coach of the Year in 2005 and 2009.
Newman owned his own business, Steve’s Window Washing, for 35 years and had small businesses and home residences as his clients.
The Newman family will have a memorial service during the first week of November at a site to be announced on Mercer Island.
“He was just a real genuine guy,” Sils said.