It's the first time in more than 40 years Jesse Parker is indoors most of the days this time of year. The five-time state champion coach at Phoenix Camelback, Mountain View, Gilbert and Texas didn't land a job this season after assisting Jim Jones at Red Mountain last year.
But he keeps his ears to the grindstone.
Do you miss not being out there this time of year?
This is the worst time of year. Absolutely. Two-a-days at Mtn. View and Camelback. You’d do those for a week or two. It was brutal. These kids are kind of lucky now with school starting. Anybody that missed two-a-day football has to be some kind of sadist.
I miss interacting with the kids. I feel I'm in very good health and was disappointed last year. I still have the physical and mental capabilities to do it. One reason I have that kind of health at this age is being around young people you have a different perspective of things. You miss the kids and planning part, the chess game that’s so much a part of it. Finding ways to beat teams and things like that.
Outside arguably Hamilton-Chander or Chaparral-Saguaro, what happened to all the football hatred from days of yore?
Rivalries were stronger in the 80s and 90s. I never saw the intensity at Red Mountain and that was so much a part of it at Mtn. View and even Gilbert. Do you want to beat Hamilton or Mountain View? Yeah, but it’s never really 'Hell, yeah, we want to kick their (butts).' We don’t cultivate school spirit anymore, certainly not like it was at Camelback, Mountain View or Texas.
Would you coach next season?
Yeah if there were some kind of opening now I’d be interested. Just have to wait and see. I’m 70 years old. Everybody thinks you’re old but there are and aren’t. Unfortunately the society looks at people that age as over the hill or next to falling in the grave. In my case I think they fear the kind of demands I might make of kids. I think not many want the old-style, old-school. To most parents today it has a bad connotation. We’re not what we are a few years ago.
Speaking of old-school, what did you think of Basha hiring Bernie Busken?
I wish him well. It really affected me almost as much as me as him because I was associated indirectly. I got called into Gilbert and accused of things and we'd just been to the state semifinals. I regretted seeing him get fired because it affected me. Hopefully he'll have learned a lesson from it. Chandler’s become the best school district in many ways and Basha is a good place to be. I'm sure he’ll do well. After 19 years at Mtn. View, it was probably good and bad following me.
Does it bother your name coming up in the wake of Busken accusations at Mountain View, then and now?
I learned a long, long time ago not to be angry or feel a grudge years ago. From time to time I was this and that, but if you let those things bother you you can destroy yourself. I don’t feel any animosity toward anybody. It’s a total waste of time, it’s like disliking a kid on your team. Kids are kids. Some are good, some not so good, but they’re all kids.
One thing that's changed in HS football lately that surprised you?
People always think the past is a little better, but the changes I've seen academically and athletically, honestly, have mostly been for the worse. Teacher autonomy is nowhere near what it was. I was the department head for social studies, an (Advanced Placement) teacher and football coach at Mountain View. That's not likely to happen again. Most coaches are secondarily teachers nowadays.
It's not about how many games you win, honestly – although it's important – it's how many kids you helped along the way. I cared as much or more about teaching kids as coaching kids. It helped give me credibility with kids athletically. We had almost no coaches off campus at Mountain View and Gilbert. Now they have almost none on campus, which I think is a big disadvantage.