When Bob McKinley first got into coaching five decades ago, he couldn't imagine doing anything else.
Now, nearly 900 wins later, he still has no intentions of changing.
McKinley's resume includes recently being selected for the National Junior College Athletic Association Women's Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. His teams have won 14 conference championships, he's been named Coach of the Year 11 times, and he's led the Lady Coyotes to four NJCAA Tournament berths, including one Final Four appearance.
The walls of McKinley's office are barely visible because of all the memorabilia and photos accumulated over the years. From thank-you cards and letters to pictures featuring countless hugs and smiles, each decade is well-documented, and McKinley always has a smile when he looks around the room.
McKinley, the winningest active NJCAA coach in the nation, has had a lot to reflect upon over 50 seasons, the past 38 at Weatherford College. He sat down and shared a few of the many thoughts he's compiled.
Q: To what do you credit your longevity?
Bob: Good health and being happy. You've got to have both of those. You can't stay doing something this long if you don't enjoy it. I love doing this because there's a different group every year, and it's always like the first season.
Q: How would you describe the feelings you get from looking around your office?
Bob: That's kind of my happy place, but I'm so busy I don't get to stay in there very much. But that's why I keep all those pictures, to remind me that these days are great, but those days are really special, too, and some day these days will be those days. I also get on Facebook a lot because just about all of my ex-players are on there, and I love staying in touch with them.
Q: Why have you stayed at the JUCO level so long, and why so many years at Weatherford College?
Bob: Mainly because of my family. Weatherford has been really awesome to us. One of my kids went to TCU, and the other to Abilene Christian and is working here. I could have left several times, but we love it here so much that I was never really tempted.
Q: Surely there were some very nice offers?
Bob: There were, but any time you move, you've got to uproot your whole family. My dad was in construction, and we uprooted all the time. It wasn't any fun. A lot of coaches get hungry and try to reach that pinnacle, but I think it comes down to what you consider the definition of pinnacle.
Q: Do you remember the feeling you had in your first game as a head coach?
Bob: I remember I was scared to death in my first game at Houston Baptist, my first college game. We were playing LSU-New Orleans, and they were really, really good. I don't remember the score, but we probably got our butts beat. I also remember we played Centenary when they had Robert Parrish (former Boston Celtic and NBA Hall of Famer). Big O (Mark Osina, WC men's coach) blocked one of his shots. One of their guys made a midcourt shot to beat us.
Q: You've won a lot of awards, but one that stands out is the “Poop Award” you won from your fellow faculty members. What is that and why is it special?
Bob: We don't have it anymore, but I wish we did. It was fun. It was a cow patty on a board. I won it one year when I got off a bus and it started rolling down a hill and over a curb. I looked just in time to see the bus go over a hill. I thought Trey (his son) was on it, and so I started chasing it. Then I saw that he wasn't, and that was a relief. I must have looked hilarious chasing that bus down a hill, and I certainly deserved that award that year.
Q: What is the biggest joy you get from coaching?
Bob: For me it's having loving and caring relationships with people I work with, people like Reda (Petraitis) as my assistant, and Big O. He's been a part of my life since he was in sixth grade. (Osina played for McKinley at Pasadena High and at Houston Baptist University).
Q: Can you point to one biggest moment in your career?
Bob: There are special times at different parts. One thing that has always stood out is I knew there was something special here when I got hired. We stayed in the dorm for a month until our house was ready. This area reminded me a lot of Bowie, my hometown.
Q: What has been the most difficult moment of your career?
Bob: The most difficult time was when I had to coach both men and women (for six seasons). At times that was kind of nightmarish. We'd finish one practice and 15 minutes later you're right back at another. It was the same on game day.
Q: Who's the best player you've ever coached?
Bob: Reda was one of the better ones, and so was Andy Holubova. Big Eric Cardenas also has to rank right up there. He was just a monster.
Q: What's the best team you've ever coached?
Bob: The 1997 team that made the Final Four. We had Reda, Andy, Olga Firsova, Patty Cantella, who was probably the best point guard ever to come through here, male or female.
Q: You still love the game, your teams are still competing for championships, you love coming to work. How much longer will you coach?
Bob: The other people asking me that are the Social Security folks. They keep asking me when I'll retire. This past time I put 2024 on the form. I figure that will make them leave me alone for at least 10 years, and then I'll put it down again. What the heck else am I going to do? I'd like to have a tractor so I can push over some dead trees, but Dee (his wife) won't let me have one because she knows that once those trees are gone, I'd be bored and come back to coaching.