Longtime coach Phil Jeannin hanging up his whistle
If you're out in Tonganoxie between the hours of 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., you just might spot Phil Jeannin.
Whether he can't sleep or is out to exercise, the longtime Tonganoxie Junior High basketball coach is out on the town.
Another spot Jeannin has been known to roam is the bench at TJHS basketball games.
Now, however, you likely won't find him there for some time.
Jeannin, who has coached TJHS basketball for 32 years, has decided to hang up his whistle -- at least for the time being.
"I just think it's time to turn it over to someone else," Jeannin said.
The Jarbalo native wanted to make sure he coached his daughter, Andie, who played for her father as a seventh-grader this season.
Now that his goal has been accomplished, he would like to sit back and watch junior high athletics. Jeannin still will coach track, but he wants to spend more time watching all Warrior teams because he also is the junior high athletics director.
In it for the long haul
Jeannin started teaching physical education at Tonganoxie in 1973-74. He graduated from what was then called Kansas State Teachers College. Today, it's known as Emporia State University.
That's the same time Phil Williams, another ESU graduate, came to Tonganoxie. Williams retired from teaching last spring, but still coaches at THS. Barb Gurss, a THS physical education teacher, was in Jeannin's college graduating class as well. Fellow junior high coach and teacher John Korb, began his teaching career at Tonganoxie -- after getting his degree at Emporia.
Jeannin certainly is no stranger to the area. He played basketball for Tonganoxie High after Jarbalo and Tonganoxie consolidated. He was on the basketball team in 1966-67 that advanced to the state tournament.
"That wasn't because of me because I had big people to throw to," Jeannin said with a chuckle. "I knew my role.
Most of Jeannin's coaching experience has been in the junior high. He has coached seventh and eighth-grade football, seventh and eighth-grade track, along with boys and girls basketball in those grades.
For a short stint he was the freshman girls basketball coach and at another time was the junior varsity girls basketball coach with Mark Mall.
The junior varsity experience was short-lived. That same year, he also coached seventh-grade girls basketball.
That was 1991, the same year Andie was born.
Jeannin is glad he stuck with junior high basketball after that.
"I would have never done that again," Jeannin said of coaching two teams. "We probably wouldn't be as close as we are now.
"It was a very overwhelming year, but I wouldn't change anything."
Jeannin never had much desire to coach on the high school level. He was happy teaching fundamentals on the junior high level.
"It's not all about winning, it's attitude and effort and you have to keep that in mind," Jeannin said.
Although THS has a no-cut policy, that's something else that keeps him from the high school ranks.
"I would never coach if I had to cut players," Jeannin said. "I had to do it once. I never want to do it again.
"Some people are just meant for middle school. It's just what you're built for."
Some people call him Phil or Mr. Jeannin.
Most people call him Coach J.
"Forever I think," Jeannin said, referring to how long students have called him Coach J. "Sometimes it seems odd when they call me Mr. Jeannin. It seems odd."
Coach J has plenty of great memories. The 1985-86 season, for instance, when he coached the eighth-grade girls team, ended in an undefeated season.
That was LeAnn Bond's eighth-grade year. Bond now is a physical education teacher with Jeannin in the junior high.
That same year, when he coached the boys team, the Warriors only had one defeat.
"That was really a great year with the kids," Jeannin said. "Probably one of the highlight years I had."
If Jeannin had a student when he first started teaching, he likely taught their children.
In his first year, Jeannin taught Bill Seymour and Carl Hughes. Jeannin just finished coaching their daughters.
Sitting in the stands
Animated during every game, Jeannin said he is a different guy when he's in the stands.
"It's a funny thing," Jeannin said. "When I sit in the bleachers or keep the score book, I'm pretty quiet.
The same applied to other teams, such as the former NBA team, the Kansas City Kings.
Jeannin used to attend Kings games at Kemper Arena with his brother.
"I could sit through the whole game and be quiet," Jeannin said.
Watching from the stands at TJHS likely will be a little more relaxing.
"As an old coach, I'll know how easy it is to watch from the stands," Jeannin said. "I've felt over the years people in the stands don't understand the whole picture."
Boys vs. Girls
Although he has coached girls basketball the last 26 years, Jeannin also has coached some boys squads.
In his estimation, where coaching is concerned, there's not much separating the two genders.
"There's not a whole lot of difference in coaching boys and girls," Jeannin said. "Yes, you can be a little more gruff with boys than girls."
But, as Jeannin said, all of them want to learn.
"Boys sometimes think they know a little more than girls," Jeannin said with a smile.
Now, Coach J can enjoy watching another coach work with those boys and girls -- he'll be checking out the games from the bleachers.
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