John Brewington retires after 30-plus years

When I was a young journalist, I never thought much about retirement. It just seemed too far in the distance. I always figured I’d die slumped over a keyboard or in the dark room at work long before retirement ever came up.

   Of course, there are dark rooms no more and our attitudes change as we get older. The weekly sports grind of often covering two or three events an evening, and getting home late become stressful.

St. Helens cross country and track coach Gerry Tinkle told me a similar thing this week. He retired from teaching, but not coaching. He said he didn’t miss the staff meetings before school starting, but his stress level rose with a dramatic increase in his teaching workload last year. He went from teaching 170 students to 210—or something like that.

Tinkle has been a joy to be around for the last 30-plus years. I just love his sarcasm and his attitude. His healthy skepticism matches my own. It was great to be in Eugene in 2007 when St. Helens won the 5A state title. He shared his assessment of where the team stood throughout the meet, and knew before the last event that they had won it.

Tinkle is one of a number of coaches that I will always cherish their memory. My first coaching mentor was Tinkle’s predecessor Gene Strehlou. He was also my rafting mentor and we spent many days on the rivers. Strehlou, along with Bert Burr, Herb Eisenschmidt, and Andy Knudsen were the entire coaching staff at St. Helens. Of course those were the days of fewer sports, and sports just for boys. Coaches were usually teachers in those days, and still are in many cases, but more and more others come in. There also weren’t really a lot of club coaches. Athletes would do some off-season games, but three-sport athletes were more the norm.

Coaches like Jim Bernhardt, Dick Busch, and Bill Covlin at Scappoose were really good to a young guy learning the ropes. Busch and Covlin both brought state titles to Scappoose.

Bill Rawlings and Wes Bigham have also meant a lot to me. Rawlings always cracked me up. I played a hand in bringing Wes to St. Helens—basically just asking him if he was available (at Strehlou’s request). Something like four state championships later I’d have to say it worked out pretty well. I can’t remember if Rawlings won three or four titles, but he was a national coach of the year. Busch won a baseball title in his first year coaching (1968) and a softball state title in his last (1995 I think). His son, Dan, won a softball title in his first year coaching at St. Helens. I think my old friend Jeff Edwards has his team headed towards a title, too.

David Harley in Scappoose is such a joy to work with. His cross country and track teams have done well, but David always responds quickly, knows what I need for the newspaper, and is just a great person.

I’m sitting here late on a Wednesday night typing this on my daughter Sarah’s laptop just because it’s too stuffy in the computer room.

My wife, the lovely Cynthia, knows what it’s like for the spouses of coaches. She’s still working, but likes the idea that we might actually be able to do something on a Friday night. Well, maybe after this football season anyway. My sports schedule has kept us from doing some of the normal things, like a spontaneous dinner and movie. My hat is off to all those spouses that put up with my late night calls and interruptions. Cell phones have made it a little easier to contact coaches. E-mails and text messages and some websites also make it better.

Another coach that has been fun to work with is Sean McNabb. He’s a truly good guy, always returns calls, and is a great coach. Name another coach that went 49-2 in their first four years with three state championships and a semi-final appearance. And one of those two losses was his very first game.

I’m afraid I’m going to miss naming some coaches I really liked, but after 40 years I think I’ve filled up my random access memory. Let’s see—Jerry Belcher, Todd Smith, Gordon Jarman, Rick Knode, Paul Gloden, Jim Jones, Robert Medley, Mike Hoag, Dave Lawrence and others that aren’t coming to me at the moment. I apologize to all those others I’m forgetting.

Most of the coaches I’ve dealt with over the years have been just wonderful. For those still coaching I wish you all great seasons ahead. For all of you, thanks for the great memories.

You never know, I may be back someday.

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