Sunflower Slate turns 5: THE COACHES

“The dead have come to take the living. The dead in winding-sheets, the regimented dead on horseback, the skeleton that plays a hurdy-gurdy …. Thomson is out in center field now dodging fans who come in rushes and jumps. They jump against his body, they want to take him to the ground, show him snapshots of their families.” 

-Don DeLillo, “Underworld” 

Sunflower Slate’s three-day birthday celebration is at its end — I wrote about the five most memorable games on Wednesday, five most memorable players on Thursday and I’m capping things off with the five most memorable coaches today. Again, these aren’t my favorites, necessarily, but the most memorable.

THE COACHES: 

CHUCK BROYLES

Broyles is the man who brought Pittsburg State football into the modern era, and also the man who also undid all the great things he’d accomplished with some bad decisions at the end of his career. From the perspective of a sports writer, you can tell a lot about a coach by how they handle success and, more importantly, failure. Broyles never shied away from his critics and spread the praise out when he had success. Maybe the most interesting person I’ve ever covered

KRIS BAUMANN

I met Baumann in 2006, in the days after I was hired as the sports editor at the Garden City Telegram and took over the Garden City Community College beat as part of my duties, and kept covering the team when I switched over to The Eagle in early 2008. Most of the coaches in the Jayhawk are guys that have either been there forever or have ties to our state or the league from something else — that wasn’t Baumman. He was an outsider, and always relished that role. Won a Region VI title in 2009 and then moved onto Trinity Valley in Texas in 2012. This was a guy, who when I wrote a good story or blog post, would praise it, and when I biffed one, also called me out.  Never derogatory, just keeping it real. Ultimately, that made me a better journalist.

JAIME GREEN

Like everybody else, when Newman hired Green in 2010 after she won an improbable Region VI title at Labette Community College, I thought it was a home run. But weird things started to happen pretty quickly, starting with her introductory press conference, where I asked her if she’d turned down an assistant coach position at UTEP. She said she had, then told me I wasn’t allowed to write about it. Never said why. Over the next couple of years, most of the interviews we did were like that. She’d say something, then tell me I couldn’t write about it or try and tell me what the stories needed to be about. A lot of coaches are control freaks, so I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. A little annoying, maybe, but the fact that she was winning like crazy  – all the while piling up high-profile Division I transfers and eschewing prep recruiting — was impossible to argue with. Then things started to unravel. First, two players busted for allegedly dealing drugs. Then, the NCAA came down on her for cheating. She quit not long after that. Made me wonder if she could have been so successful without cheating. I guess we’ll never know.  Her mistakes overshadowed her accomplishments, and that’s too bad for Newman and for the players.

TROY MORRELL

So much has been written about Morrell, both by me and others, that it feels silly listing his accomplishments here. He’s arguably the greatest junior-college football coach of all time, and he’s only in his early 40s. With a brand-new stadium, who knows what the future holds for Morrell and the Grizzlies, who are once again tin the hunt for the national title. Like Broyles, always gives praise to others when he has success and tries to put everything on his shoulders when he (rarely) loses. My guess is he’ll finish his career at Butler, but you never know.

MONTY LEWIS

Because Lewis runs his program just minutes away from my office, our relationship is unique in that I have more access to his program than I might with others because it’s so close. And I’ve learned a lot seeing him dealing with some tremendous success and failure. Lewis is as much an institution in the state’s coaching ranks as Morrell or Broyles to the coaching profession and we’re all better off having him around for a long time to come.  And maybe, someday, he’ll get a shot at winning the whole thing.
Almost made it: Steve Eck (Cowley/Hutchinson men’s basketball), Ed Hargrove (Cowley softball), Bob Fornelli (Emporia State baseball), Mark Potter (Newman men’s basketball), Craig Fletchall (Barton men’s basketball), Lonnie Kruse (Sterling women’s basketball), Rion Rhoades (Hutchinson football)
TA