Chirhart embracing future as Centralia College AD


When Joe Chirhart first came to Western Washington in 2002, he thought he was just passing through.

The reigning Alaska Male High School Athlete of the Year was touring schools to play collegiate basketball, and his first stop was St. Martins University in Lacey.

Though he and his father planned to head south into Oregon and California to tour several other schools, he quickly realized that SMU was the right place for him.

More than 20 years later, Chirhart still calls Western Washington home, and last month, he was named Centralia College’s Athletic Director, succeeding the legendary Bob Peters.

Chirhart had served as the interim since Peters’ retirement on Halloween, and on May 9, his birthday, the interim tag was officially dropped.

“I’m excited to help grow the Centralia College brand,” Chirhart said. “And to also continue to make sure I support coaches and build strong relationships with people in the communities and our kids. I’m super excited.”

This fall will mark the start of Chirhart’s third school year at Centralia College, and he’s been no stranger to student-athletes on campus in his first two years.

He first joined the men’s basketball staff as a volunteer assistant in 2022, and he quickly began running the team’s recruiting operation. Prior to the start of last season, he was named the program’s head coach. 

He was also sure to frequent other athletic events, especially after being named the interim AD in November.

“I was just trying to submerge myself in as much Centralia College stuff as I could,” Chirhart said.

Balancing coaching and administrative duties is nothing new to Chirhart. Prior to coming to Centralia College, he spent nearly a decade at Tenino, much of which was spent as both the boys basketball coach and the athletic director.

Chirhart oversaw a period of growth throughout the Tenino athletic department, including the implementation of the famous black turf and state qualifiers across several sports.

He also launched the school’s girls wrestling and boys golf programs.

“I’m really proud of the time I spent in Tenino,” Chirhart said. “I’m really proud of the growth we were able to make … Once we were able to put the excitement behind our programs and our teams, our kids started to become really successful.”

He was first exposed to the idea of coaching and administrating back in college, where his coach at St. Martins, Bob Grisham, also doubled as the school’s athletic director.

“Maybe I learned by osmosis or whatever you want to call it,” Chirhart joked with a laugh. “I think that was a really good foundation for me.”

His love for coaching also blossomed in Lacey. After tearing his ACL in his sophomore season, he spent a lot of time diving into the Xs and Os of the game, and after his playing career was over, he immediately began his coaching career in Yelm.

The biggest difference between the high school job and the college job, of course, is on the recruiting side. Like everything else, Chirhart is diving right in. 

Chirhart already has been leading the way in recruitment on the basketball side of things, but he’s also been sure to be around for athletes in other sports when they visit campus.

“I take a lot of pride in being able to be there and shake hands, get an introduction to parents,” Chirhart said. “Let them see a face of who’s going to be helping support their kid within the athletic department. That’s big for me.

“I think that as much of that excitement that I can show these kids, the more they’ll want to be around that.”

Bob Peters Field, the school’s recently-opened turf field that serves as a soccer, baseball, and softball field serves as a great tool in recruiting, but Chirhart has more in mind for the school’s facilities.

A new batting cage with a “crows nest” up top recently opened next to Bob Peters Field, and he is also looking into plans to upgrade the weight room, the bleachers at the field, and more.