“Lefty, Jesus, and Bobby Knight”

March 12, 1982, I remember it like it was yesterday.  Well, not really! But sometime in March of 1982 I received a phone call and accepted my first coaching and teaching job.

I was going to be an Altoona/Midway Jet.



A few days prior to the phone call I had my first teaching interview with W.E “Lefty” Hamm.  In advance of the interview I had contemplated possible interview questions, had Linda play the role of interviewer and ask me as many potential questions as possible.  I was ready!  On interview day I quickly discovered that much of the preparation was useless as Mr. Hamm was far from conventional in his recruitment of personnel.  We didn’t sit down and visit in an office at all; rather, the interview took place entirely on our feet walking around the district facilities.


Mr. Hamm was intent to determine whether I had what it took to be the next head basketball coach. He had many years of coaching experience and as the interview progressed I am certain he noticed my lack of such.  He was also keenly interested to learn about my internship at the Collinsville Christian Church.  In the end I don’t think it mattered much what I knew about Biology or Basketball.  I think he hired me because of my experience in youth ministry.

“Bobby Knight”

During the interview “Lefty” looked at me and said, “Kent, who is your favorite coach, who do you most emulate?”  That was the first easy question of the interview and without thinking or blinking I confidently stated, “Bob Knight”.  Mr. Hamm looked right at me and chuckled a bit and asked, “are you serious?”  And that was that! Based on all visible body language, I thought I had blown any chance for the job.  Fortunately, interview answers about Jesus trumped interview answers about Bobby Knight.

That first year of teaching and coaching was an incredible learning experience, and even though, if I could, would do at least 1000 things differently, wouldn’t trade it for another.  The title of this entry is “Lefty, Jesus, and Bobby Knight”.  Despite an obvious dislike for Bobby Knight, Lefty Hamm hired me because of my willingness to profess Jesus, youth ministry, and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on my resume’.  In year one I brought a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and passion to my work every day.  Unfortunately, there were too many times during that year that students and athletes saw more “Bobby Knight-like*” behavior than Christ-like behavior.  Oh for do-overs…

What would a “do-over” look like? Well, there was some of this but not enough: Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.


* My Bobby Knight-like behavior did not include his propensity for basketball genius nor was it accompanied with 30** wins

**the Kansas High School equivalent of “30 wins”  is around 18

  • Teaching Assignment by class periods: Biology, Earth Science, Freshmen Physical Education, Biology, and Advanced Physical Education.
  • Coaching Assignment: Assistant Football, Head Basketball, Head Boys and Girls Track Coach
  • Activities Assignment: Fellowship of Christian Athletes sponsor, Weightlifting sponsor, Prom Sponsor, Lunch Room Supervisor

2 thoughts on ““Lefty, Jesus, and Bobby Knight”

  1. I wonder if one of those do overs might be the infamous belt line? LOL I was fortunate to be a player under Coach Wire’s first teaching/coaching assignment and am very thankful for having that opportunity. He inspired me in many ways which would ultimately lead me down my path in life as a biology teacher and a basketball coach. Coach wire taught me many things and was a great mentor when I began my coaching profession. Thanks for everything you did and brought to the small Altoona-Midway School District.

  2. Clay – Yeah, I think that one would’ve definitely been a good one to skip. Thanks for commenting and the kind words. I do have a Clay Oakes story to share on the blog at some point. Hope you keep reading. Please feel free to share the link(s) to your old teammates that played if you’d like. Take care

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