Gary Joe Kinne rode in as the white knight in July 2009 to rescue Sherman’s football program from uncertainty and take the Bearcats to the next level.
Five years later, Kinne departs with his armor somewhat tarnished — but his mission of building a consistent winner at Sherman High School was accomplished.
Kinne stepped down as head football coach on Friday afternoon after coaching the Bearcats to a 41-18 record, four playoff appearances in five seasons, back-to-back District 13-4A championships in 2010-11, and a berth in the 2011 state quarterfinals.
“Coach Kinne has announced his resignation from the Sherman Independent School District,” Sherman Superintendent Al Hambrick said in a statement late Friday night. “Coach Kinne and the District wish to acknowledge and recognize the staff, students, parents and constituents who have all contributed to the District’s sports program during Coach Kinne’s tenure.
“The District extends its best wishes to Coach Kinne in his future endeavors. On its part, the District will soon begin its search for a new head football coach so as not to disrupt the District’s athletic programs,” the statement added.
Attempts to reach Kinne on both Friday and Friday night were unsuccessful.
Kinne still has two years left on his contract, but faced the possibility of not having it extended by the SISD board of trustees when the question was to come before it next month.
Kinne’s tenure in Sherman was marked by success on the field, but also by controversy off of it.
Last fall, Kinne served a one-game suspension and did not coach in the Battle of the Ax against Denison, a game the Bearcats lost, 42-24.
The punishment was handed down by the University Interscholastic League executive committee for direct involvement and use of school equipment — both of which are prohibited by the UIL — during a 7-on-7 tournament in Northwest Arkansas last summer.
Kinne was also issued a two-year probation and a public reprimand from the UIL committee, and was later stripped of his title of athletic director by Hambrick. Former SHS coach and administrator Tommy Hudspeth was named interim athletic director in November.
Amid all the distractions, plus a number of injuries to key personnel, the Bearcats slid to 4-6 in 2013 and missed the playoffs — Kinne’s first losing record in his career as a head coach.
For Sherman, the job search begins anew, although this time, the school has plenty of advance notice with which to prepare.
Former head coach and AD Drew Young’s sudden retirement in June 2009 left the Sherman ISD scrambling to find a new coach in time for two-a-days to start.
With only a few weeks to spare, Kinne was the top choice among a field of 31 applicants which included finalists Jerry Bomar of Callisburg, Sherman defensive coordinator Jason Heath, Sherman offensive coordinator Royce Slechta, and El Paso Hanks’ Jeff Cleveland.
Each of the first three seasons under Kinne, the Bearcats showed improvement in the category that matters most to some fans: Postseason performance.
A first-round exit in 2009 was followed by a bi-district win against Marshall in 2010, and in 2011, Sherman went four rounds deep for only the third time in school history before losing to Tyler John Tyler in a Region II final that was tied at halftime.
In 2011, the Bearcats sat at 3-3 after humbling non-district losses at Highland Park and Lake Dallas — their worst two-game combined margins of defeat since 1942 — and a seven-point setback at Sulphur Springs which seemed at the time to derail Sherman’s district title hopes.
But as it turned out, the Bearcats righted the ship in time to beat Texarkana Texas High, solidifying their playoff placement. Texas High’s comeback win in Week 10 over Sulphur Springs lifted Sherman into a three-way tie for the 13-4A championship.
In all, the Bearcats won seven games in a row, including improbable second-half comebacks from 14 points down against Waxahachie and 19 down against Rockwall-Heath, to reach the Region II final.
The Bearcats missed out on a district title in 2012, but still earned the top seed in the Division I playoffs before bowing out with an area-round loss to Red Oak.
Before arriving in Sherman, Kinne coached for one season at Clovis West, just outside Fresno in California’s Central Valley, and led his school to a 10-3 record and the California Interscholastic Federation’s Central Section championship, the farthest a high school could advance in the Golden State at the time.
Before that, the former standout Baylor middle linebacker was an assistant coach at Mesquite High during the team’s 2001 Class 5A Division I state championship run, then moved to Canton for his first head coaching job in 2003 and led the Eagles to their first playoff berth in 39 years.
Kinne also spent one season as an assistant at Allen and began his coaching career in 1991 at Kaufman, where he was on staff for three seasons, the last two as defensive coordinator.
Kinne made national news in 2005 at Canton when he was shot and wounded in his office by an irate father of one of his players. The shooter, Jeff Doyal Robertson, is serving a 20-year sentence in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Terrell Unit for assault with a deadly weapon and is eligible for parole in 2015. The incident was revisited by ESPN in 2011 during an episode of its E:60 documentary series.
Kinne fought through health complications from the shooting to coach Canton to the 3A Division II state quarterfinals in 2005, then left the following year to become an assistant coach and recruiter at Baylor, his alma mater.
Kinne’s oldest son, G.J. Kinne, was a starting quarterback for Tulsa and is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles after going to training camp with the New York Jets in 2012.
The Kinnes have multiple ties with the Tulsa football program. G.J. Kinne transferred to Tulsa from Texas to play for then-Hurricane coach Todd Graham, who was a high school teammate of the elder Kinne at North Mesquite.
Kinne’s former defensive coordinator at Sherman, Brent Graham, is Todd Graham’s nephew and came to Sherman after serving for two years on his uncle’s staff; and Kinne’s former offensive coordinator, David Johnson, was a starting quarterback for Tulsa and is now a graduate assistant with the Hurricane.