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Prep Notebook

Binney lands top coaching honor

Larry Binney had a good excuse the first time he missed one of his softball team's games. He skipped a North Medford state playoff game in 1996 to attend his daughter's college graduation.

Perhaps the 51-year-old coach might have a better excuse on May 2 for missing a doubleheader against Klamath Union.

Binney plans to be in Kansas City, Mo., that weekend to pick up his National Softball Coach of the Year plaque.

Binney was notified by mail last month and his selection was announced by the Oregon School Activities Association on Monday.

I read this letter about four times, thinking it must be a misprint. I thought it was just another softball questionnaire -- that's what I usually get from those guys.

Binney shared the news with longtime assistants Duke Anderson and Rod Rumrey at a coaches meeting. Rumrey pumped Binney's hand and told him congratulations.

You couldn't have done it without me, quipped Anderson.

Binney looked Anderson straight in the eyes and said: You're right.

If Binney gave an acceptance speech in Kansas City, he'd probably thank half of Southern Oregon. His ability to work with so many people and learn from each of them has set him apart.

He's a master of surrounding himself with people who know what's going on, Anderson says. He's loyal to his people and treats them right.

Even as Binney, Anderson, Rumrey, T.P. Jones and Roger Robison are plotting a third straight trip to the state finals, his expansive Tornado Tuff feeder program is being shaped by Dave Coe, Naomi Silva, Ernie Adams, Dan Crippen, Craig Knips and Steve Bradley.

When we have our meetings Larry wants to know what are you going to tell them and teach them, Anderson says. He gives us a free hand coaching, but everybody knows what's going to be said.

Binney scripts each practice, leaving little to chance.

Minute by minute you know what you're going to be doing and what three kids you're going to be teaching at the time, Anderson says. That's organization.

The late Ben Fagone launched the Black Tornado program in 1980 and Binney took the reins two years later. His teams have compiled a 367-87-1 record and a 222-36 Southern Oregon Conference mark en route to 12 conference titles. The Tornado won the 1984 state championship, finished second in 1996 and shared the 1997 state crown. His worst season -- 15-12 in 1994 -- is better than the best for many programs.

I'm tickled to death for him, says Medford schools athletic director Bruce Howell. He's been Mr. Softball around here for a long, long time. He's put in countless hours and he's had an impact on so many people, you can't count them.

Nineteen of Binney's players have gained first-team, all-state honors, including two-time selections Nicole Milne, Angie LeRoy, Shelley Bruce, Missy Coe and Stephanie Adams. Another former player, Angie Jacobs, plays professionally.

I've had some dedicated players that set high team and individual goals and they've reached those goals, Binney says. Great players like that make the coach look good.

Legendary Klamath Union basketball coach Al Keck, American Legion baseball coach Gabby Williams, former North Medford baseball coach Jim McAbee and the late Ted Schopf, who coached baseball at Southern Oregon College, all had a profound influence on Binney.

I picked up a lot of bits and pieces from a lot of people, Binney says. When I was officiating basketball I used to listen to John Thomas of Roseburg during timeouts to see how he coached. I learned from Mike Kay when he was coaching basketball at Mazama and assisting in softball.

Binney spent a summer coaching and sharing ideas with former Crater coach Mike Johnson and former Roseburg coach Eddie Eaton.

If I saw other people doing something that would fit what we're doing, Binney says, I'd steal it a heartbeat.

He's dedicated the better part of two decades to softball.

It's extremely demanding, timewise, Binney says. But I've surrounded myself with good coaches and good people on the Tornado Tuff board.

POWER STRUGGLE: Here's something you're not likely to see around here: The Feb. 5 Ponderosa-Rio Americano girls basketball game in Shingle Springs, Calif., was stopped with 5:52 left in the third quarter when one of the officials walked off the floor.

The two officials got into a disagreement with each other over foul calls and who should be calling them, Ponderosa coach Pete Dwyer, whose team was leading 42-12, told the Sacramento Bee.

It's the first time I've ever heard of anything like it, said Don Tipton, commissioner of the Sacramento Officials Association for the past 15 years. It was a freak thing. Apparently there were two officials that didn't like one another and things didn't go well.