My coaching career has come to a close. Please don’t call me a liar if you view me coaching my son, Sam’s, Little League baseball team. However, that’s as close to sneaking out of retirement you’ll see me. There won’t be any George Foreman-type coming out of retirement. Coaching has been my life, but I hope it didn’t define my entire life. I guess we’ll see what happens.
Since Lori Hopkins, my former assistant coach, goaded me into writing the first blog about two years ago, I found something I love to do almost as much as coaching. I try to keep my blogs at three to four pages and about 1500 words. I have a lot to say this time and I’ll surely violate that rule.
The reason 2012 will be my final year of coaching comes down to the first Sunday last June. I had just returned home from Sunday Mass at St. Gregory’s. I have to admit I snuck out after I listened to Father Martin’s message and slipped my collection envelope into the plate.
I was digging into the Sunday Kansas City Star when my friend and volunteer assistant, Chuck Fox, called me with shocking and unbelievable news; Scott Bostwick had collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack. I hated to break the news to my wife, Michele, and explain it to Sam. Both loved Scott and his infectious and positive attitude toward life.
I went to my office looking for answers to what happened to Scott. There was only one football graduate assistant in the building and he was as clueless as I was. While sitting in my office, Joey, the sports editor from the Maryville Daily Forum, came up to the second floor looking for the same answers. He asked if I could give him my thoughts of Scott. The most overwhelming vision I could give to Joey was how tragic it was for Scott to wait 17 years for the one and only job he ever wanted. To have it snatched away in a blink of an eye after only a couple of months were unthinkable.
After Joey left, I sat at my desk and made the toughest decision of my life; the 2011-2012 school year would be my last in education. The reason was simple; I had my dream job for the last 13 years. In truth, I had my dream job for the last 33 years, the locations just changed.
I’ve always tried to use my imagination when I coached. I heard a speaker at a junior-senior prom atDawson-VerdonSchoolin 1974 tell his audience that you loose 99% of your imagination by age 18. How he researched that statistic is beyond me, but a goal of mine from that speech has been to use my vanishing imagination as much as possible.
Sitting in my office that Sunday made me realize I wanted to use the imagination I had preserved in other parts of my life. Scott was talking to me that day; telling me not to wait until it’s too late. I have no idea how I’ll use my imagination, but I have a feeling I will keep writing these silly blogs for someone.
Who knows, maybe I’ll write a book. A high school player of mine, Brenda Florian, died of cancer in 1984. Her greatest fear was being forgotten after just a few short years of life. I think I’m going to try and honor her wishes to be remembered by attempting to describe her remarkable years on earth with a book. I hope I’m up to that task.
I know Sam and my grandson, Jacob, will have to put up with my ideas of adventure. They’re usually up for anything and now I might have the chance to expand our journeys. Who knows where those adventures will take us.
One regret I’ll take with me into retirement is I wasn’t able to give my three seniors, Abby Henry, Shelly Martin, and Tara Roach a better season to end their careers. My athletic director, Wren Baker, found out my decision in September. I asked him to keep my decision quiet while promising I would work as hard as I ever had at coaching. I hope I have lived up to that promise. Unfortunately, the won-loss record won’t look like I succeeded. However, I want all my players know how much fun I had coaching them this year. They were great to work with every day of my final year. I look forward to watching the underclassmen returned to the winning ways in the years to come. I know Wren will hire a great coach and I will be the program’s biggest advocate.
One crucial area of college coaching I did back off a little was recruiting. I didn’t want to deceive recruits without hurting our efforts to recruit quality players. However, I really encouraged my assistants to search high and low for new talent. They did a great job finding potential players.
I allowed Meghan Nelson and Addae Houston, my assistants, keep on searching for high school, junior college, and transfer talent. My staff did not know my decision to retire until after the final game. Their successes in recruiting will be a great resume builder as they continue on in the coaching profession.
I will really miss not spending two full years with my graduate assistant, Gentry Dietz. She is the most opinionated, mouthy, enthusiast, pain-in-the-butt and loyal graduate assistant I’ve ever had. Those are all qualifications that will make her as great of coach as she was as a player.
Sixteen years ago, Michele and I planned our retirement. We built a brand new house inCrete. I knew I would soon become the athletic director atDoaneCollege, while still coaching the women’s team. I had just sold a house in Clatonia. That house was built during my high school coaching days, and the sale made a fairly sizable profit. To avoid the tax hit from the profits, I dropped the profits into the new house that was currently under construction.
We should have checked on real estate values before building such an expensive house. Michele and my thoughts were, “What the heck; I will coach another 15 years and we’ll have the house about paid off by then.” It was a great retirement plan. I did get the athletic director job a year later and we were right on track for a 2014 retirement date. Then Northwest came a calling and I couldn’t resist. We lost all the equity in the house, but we were headed for the Maryville. At first, Michele thought the college was in Marysville, KS, but I soon got her geography straightened out.
Actually, it was sort-of a stroke of luck that I even interviewed at Northwest. Chris Johnson, the former men’s basketball assistant at Northwest, called his mother, a secretary atDoaneCollege. He told her Wayne Winstead, the Northwest women’s basketball coach, was retiring. He was pretty sure I could at least get an interview.
The athletic department atDoaneCollegereally needed a secretary and I was overwhelmed coaching and taking the athletic director duties. I saw an opportunity in the Northwest job opening. I went to the Doane College’s Director of Advancement and the head of the Admission’s office. I told them about the potential interview for the coaching job at Northwest. “I won’t even interview,” I told the pair of administrators, “If I could just get an office manager for the athletic department.”
I waited for a response as I applied at Northwest. There was nothing but silence from my two superiors as I did indeed set up an interview. Then the call came that offered me the job. It came the Tuesday after Labor Day in 1999. The president of Doane College, Dr. Fred Brown, wanted a meeting before I made a final decision. We set up an 8 a.m. meeting.
The Northwest interview had really blown me away. I would have full time assistant coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, an office manager, and even someone to do our laundry. I would miss that laundry job, though as Michele and I spent sleepless nights. Just as I walked out the door, I asked Michele for the ninety-ninth time what should we do. Finally, she said, “Let’s go to Northwest.” Did I tell you she was six months pregnant with Sam?
Dr. Fred Brown was a tremendous boss atDoaneCollege. He had been a hands-on college president, much like Dr. Jasinski is at Northwest. He made a very tempting offer, matching the Northwest salary and offering the same deal I had told the two administrators more than a month earlier. When I turned down the perks to head to Northwest, Dr. Brown said, “Dan (Admission’s Director) will be disappointed. The office manager was his idea.”
Dan had sold my idea as his plan to keep me atDoaneCollege. To this day, Dan has never forgiven me for not taking the Doane College deal, which of course was his way of ensuring I stayed in Nebraska. It would have worked before I visited Northwest. Now I was hooked on the ‘Ville.
Michele, Sam (2 months from birth), and I headed for northwest Missouri. Although it was only two hours from my home town ofClatonia,Nebraska, most my friend and relatives were sure we were moving to another planet.
One of the first things I noted was how closeMaryvillewas to Skidmore. Twenty years earlier I had read accounts how the local bully was murdered in broad daylight. Amazingly, no one came forward, protecting the local people who had taken matters into their own hands. I never would have guessed Skidmore was a neighboring community to Maryville.
After a year, Michele, Sam (now 10 months old) and I moved to acreage just north ofMaryville. I can’t believe we have now lived her three times longer than the house we built inCrete. It’s the only home that Sam has ever known. Except for a closer location to Sam’s friends, it is a perfect place to raise a baseball crazy young man. We have our own “Field of Dreams”, built in our backyard.
More family soon followed us toMaryvilleas Michele’s daughter moved to our house while she went toNorthwestMissouriStateUniversityto get her degree. Despite a lot of bumps along the way, five years later, Amy accomplished that goal. Her son and my grandson, Jacob, became like a brother to Sam instead of an older nephew. They play like brothers and fight like brothers. Amy and Jacob now live in Stanberry, a short 26 mile drive.
I often talk about my home town of Clatonia, but the Maryville has become our home. When we first moved toMissouri, Michele kept bugging me to cut the chords to our ties inNebraska. It wasn’t easy, but we are now firmly tied to theMaryvillecommunity.
I certainly can’t retire from full employment. Sam and his needs assure I work for many more years. I am excited to use my skills in a different way. Maryvilleis stuck with me. Tera Nelson at Maryville Travel has been nice enough to offer me a desk in her office. I will run Malika Sports, a hobby that has turned into a profession, from Maryville Travel. I hope I can help Tera and her business. I hope I see all the people I have met in my time atNorthwestMissouriStateUniversityon a regular basis.
I will be a huge booster for the Northwest Athletic Programs. Athletics are in good hands with its leader, Wren Baker. I’m sure all the athletic programs will prosper and be dominate in the MIAA. I can’t wait to become that booster. See you at the basketball games in November.