Mac H of F ceremony should be memorable

By Steve Sell
October 09, 2015

I have a feeling there will be no shortage of laughter on Saturday morning when Roger Trimmell and Jonathan Coachman are inducted into the McPherson College Hall of Fame.

It only seems appropriate that they’ve been selected for induction in the same year since their careers are so intertwined. My guess is this will be the largest Hall of Fame induction crowd since the ceremony was established.

Trimmell is one of the most revered figures in McPherson College history. He was a cerebral point guard for the late Don Widrig and after a couple of high school coaching stops, he took over the Bulldog program and would go on for a long-and-successful tenure.

Trimmell’s teams were always well coached and highly respected throughout the KCAC. He coached for more than a quarter-century and while he never won the conference title, he guided the Bulldogs into NAIA District 10 postseason play on occasion, including the memorable game at Washburn where the Bulldogs stunned the Ichabods for a huge lead, only to see it get away in the final 5 minutes.

Trimmell was able to recruit local and small-school Kansas kids, including McPherson High, Canton-Galva, Great Bend and St. John. He didn’t often go heavy on jucos, as he wanted players who would be in school for four years and develop through the ranks. He also recruited players of high character, as he wanted them to be as good of citizens off the court as they were players on it. I’m sure a lot of his former players will be in attendance on Saturday and most have gone on to make great lives for themselves.

Trimmell also was known for his sense of humor and I can listen for hours-on-end to his stories. A lot of them revolve around food, as he once said, “I don’t care how good or bad we played, we were going to have a great postgame meal.”

Trimmell also was one of the few coaches to take a chance on Coachman coming out of McPherson High. Coachman moved to McPherson from Ohio for his junior year and was a little more than an afterthought in his first season, spending the majority of his time on the JV team.

But in 1990-91, the Bullpups were primed for another state championship run as their previous team had been perfect. Coachman had worked hard on his game and broke into the starting lineup that also included Brian Henson, Ryan Herrs, Bryan Vincent and Jason Totman, to this day in my mind the best starting five in MHS history. Henson and Herrs went on to play at the Division I level, Vincent was one of the all-time greats in Tabor history while Totman played baseball in the San Diego Padres’ organization.

Coachman had an unusual style. In his prime, his vertical jump didn’t even register, but the guy had a myriad of moves, as he was the master of cunning and guile. His array of finger rolls, pump fakes and flair allowed him to become McPherson College’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder at the time he left the school and was a former MVP of the KCAC. He was undersized for a post player, but confounded those who guarded him, as he was relentless around the basket and simply outworked his opponents. Trimmell once said that Coachman missed some “bunnies” on purpose just to pad his rebounding numbers.

Coachman, of course, also was known for his humor. He rivals Trimmell as a first-team All-American storyteller, and I was with him at Thursday’s seventh-grade football game, recalling former days while at Mac. After the game, he spoke briefly to the winning Bullpups, who had overcome a huge size disadvantage by displaying the heart that Coachman featured during his playing days.

If you’re a sports fan, you know that Coachman has gone on to greatness off the court, first as an announcer with the WWE (where he displayed his theatric skills) and now as an anchor on ESPN’s Sports Center. He has become one of its lead personalities, as he’s known — fittingly — as “The Coach.” 

But to those of us in McPherson, he’s still plain ol’ Jonny, as success has not changed him one iota as he’s still the game guy who used to entertain the patrons at Sirloin Stockade where he worked cleaning tables. He still likes his golf and storytelling and hasn’t forgotten his McPherson roots as he’s been back countless times. He was amazed Thursday with Grant Complex, as it was not in existence during his high school days. People forget Coachman was one of the best baseball players in McPherson High history as he was a power-hitting first baseman and perhaps trailed only the flexible Jon Jon Burnison for his flashy glove work. 

I’m looking forward to Saturday. Trimmell has requested to talk first as he says, “if Coachman goes first, then everybody will leave. How can I top that?” There will be lot of stories told and friendships will be renewed. I’m just glad that I can say I’m close friends with both of them. I’m a better man because of that.