Choose New Coaches With Diligence

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In February, I wrote an Extra Points titled “Mourning loss of ‘father of Sun Devil sports.’”

It centered on the death of legendary Arizona State University football, basketball and baseball coach Bill Kajikawa at age 97.

Kajikawa was one of my teachers during my undergraduate years at ASU.

A reader, George Spears, forwarded the Extra Points to Christine Kajikawa Wilkinson, Bill’s daughter who is now the senior vice president and secretary of ASU. She is also the president of the Alumni Association.

In late April, she was kind enough to share with me the many glowing letters she received from those who her father had coached or taught during his almost 40 years of dedicated service to the university. She also enclosed a copy of the Congressional Record from the House of Representatives that honored the former coach and teacher.

The bill was entered Feb. 22 by Arizona Representative Harry Mitchell, who wrote in it, “Kajikawa possessed an enthusiastic personality that inspired student athletes to excel. He will long be remembered and honored for his strong leadership and passion for athletics.”

Also among the condolences and remembrances Christine received was one from local rancher Troy Neal.

In 1956, Kajikawa — then ASU’s basketball coach — gave Neal an athletic scholarship to the university.

Neal has said he remains truly grateful because Division 1 universities didn’t recruit athletes from small schools.

Neal’s Wilcox High graduating class had 36 members.

Because Neal’s letter to Christine is mostly personal, I won’t reveal exactly what the Payson man wrote.

But, I’ll challenge anyone to read it and not shed a few tears.

Reading the remembrances of Coach Kajikawa also reminded me of just how important coaches are in the lives of young people.

During my 37 years in public education, I ruffled more than a few feathers among fellow teachers by arguing that coaches can sometimes impact students’ lives more than their classroom instructors.

My arguments were that teachers spend possibly one hour a day with individual students.

Football and basketball coaches, for example, often devote more time to their players than parents do.

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