Jokes about Fargo, N.D. in July are easy, but Pat Farrell wouldn’t go there.
Forever one with quick wit and class, his smooth-talking style belied a competitiveness in the 1980s that didn’t always make the former St. Mary’s football coach easy to play for in the heat of the moment.
In retrospect, however, his contributions and lessons have been learned and lasted, from Steve Belles (Hamilton) to Jim Ewan (formerly at Chandler), John Rodriguez (Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor) and the late Scot Bemis (Notre Dame).
There are dozens more out there — including rival-Brophy coaches and administration (past and present).
Despite a legion of past and present advocates, Farrell didn’t see a national hall of fame nomination in his future.
Sure enough, he was called around Christmas time to spend a couple nights in Fargo later this month with the National High School Athletic Coaches Association, where he’ll be indoctrinated into the cream of America’s all-time high school coaching crop.
“I think it consists of a free meal, so that’s a big draw for me,” he joked.
Then again, to everyone other than Farrell, his induction in the Arizona Coaches Association shrine in 1988 was a given, and that was before he won two more state titles at St. Mary’s in 1991 and 1995.
“In all honesty it was never truly a consideration that it would go to a national level,” he said Tuesday. “It’s very surprising but I’m very appreciative of the honor. As with these you owe so much of it to the players and coaches that it’s unfair for one person to receive it because of so many others’ efforts.”
Farrell, Mountain View pom/spiritlines coach Dannis Zazueta and former Phoenix East basketball coach Royce Youree will be Arizona’s contingent to be enshrined nationally. The trio joins Robbie Robinson (Mountain View track), Sister Lynn Winsor (Xavier golf coach and athletic director), Dan Kuiper (Valley Christian track) and Jerry Dawson (former Chaparral baseball coach) as East Valley recipients in the past decade.
Circle of life anyone? Farrell now works for former all-state quarterback Ryan Kealy’s father in Tempe.
His coaching days are long gone, having seen the writing on the wall while Arizona high school football’s landscape changed drastically in the past decade.
St. Mary’s couldn’t (and hasn’t) kept up with the big schools since the late-1990s. He couldn’t keep up, and, by the end of his tenure in 2007, knew it wasn’t worth trying to keep up at a school with sagging enrollment, dwindling resources and a 25-man roster competing against, 40-, 50- and 60- man rosters.
He said he has to send in his remarks and self-introductions in advance to be read at the induction, and, with approximately 20 other inductees, he’ll be up against the clock.
“They won’t have any problem with mine,” and his one-liners continued: “It’s one of those deals about being a representative in fooling a lot of people over a long period of time.
“It’s probably my last touch with high school athletics. It’s a thrill and one I never saw coming.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.