Monday, September 03, 2012

"The Turnaround" - Rivals & Friends

by Jason Strunk
Lubbock High School Head Coach

Tracy Strunk, Kent Jackson (Coronado head coach)
Jason Strunk
As I mentioned previously, we have a unique intra-city rivalry with Coronado.

Obviously, both schools like to beat each other. That is always a given. However, since the arrival of head coach Kent Jackson (we were both hired by LISD on the same day) we have become good friends and the respect level for each school has rapidly increased. I feel it is because of the relationship we share.

Back in early January of 2011, I was at the AFCA convention in Dallas. At this point I was still with Purdue. I finished one more round of interviews with LISD personnel in Dallas. They offered me the job in Dallas at the convention. From that point on I was in crazy mode. I needed to fly from Dallas to Lubbock that night for a press conference introducing me as the new LHS coach that morning. My family was also jumping on a plane from Indiana to Lubbock to meet for the press conference. The Strunk clan was all over the place!

That night when I boarded the Southwest flight I was wearing my Purdue travel sweats. I was also deathly ill. It was a rough week. Anyway, I am boarding the plane and walking to the back of the jet where I always sit. As I am walking back this guy (Kent Jackson) says, "Coach Strunk how are you"? I paused for a second thinking to myself that word travels fast or this is someone I offended somewhere. We shook hands and he explained how he knew who I was (the Purdue gear gave it away). I didn't realize LISD was hiring two coaches at the same time. Old KJ was also on his way for the same introductory press conference that I was going to. We both found out on the plane that we were being introduced together. Talk about ironic.

When we landed in Lubbock, we exited the plane together. It was like we were old friends. Chatting it up the whole way. When we entered the terminal my family was there (Tracy, Mac and Kennedy). KJ didn't hesitate. He was grabbing strollers, luggage and everything the family was traveling with to help us load up. I knew him for all of ten minutes and here he is going out of his way to help us out. I knew instantly, regardless of being at rival schools, we were going to be friends.

Since that night in January we have become great friends, almost family-like, to be totally honest.  We went to playoff games together last season. One playoff week we went to Seminole. Kent grew up near there. My wife and I and Kent and his family rode together and had dinner at little restaurant with Kent's parents (the entire place was decked out in the school colors of Seminole). It was a great night. We had a lot of fun.

My wife had heart surgery last February. KJ was there at 7 a.m. waiting with me as Tracy went into surgery. He spent most of the day with me. As the doctor's took Tracy back for surgery, they asked her about her Dad (KJ) that was waiting in the room. They all thought KJ was Tracy's Dad. Funny stuff. From that moment on we just refer to Tracy as KJ's daughter. It gives all a good laugh.

On the football side of things, coaching against each other is fun. We don't get caught up in all that rivalry stuff. Last year we jumped out to a 27-7 lead on them. They came back and got us 49-34. The next morning I stopped in at Coronado's football offices (this is a common thing for KJ and I to do). We talked about the game, laughed a little bit and tried to help each other out for our next games. It is just how we do it. Nothing can stand in the way of a great friendship.
James Vint and Jason Strunk

Yesterday, the very same week we are playing, I found myself in the Coronado offices again. My son had a game at Coronado's field (he plays for Coronado's Pop Warner feeder program). I just popped into KJ's office and grabbed a seat. Tracy eventually joined me. We chatted. I had some friendly banter and ribbing with Coronado staff (Coronado has a Yankee on their staff named James Vint. We play golf together. He can bust you know what with the best of them). It is a really neat relationship. Just imagine Brady Hoke dropping in on Urban at Ohio State? Wouldn't happen. That is why our friendship is special.

Kent Jackson is one of the best coaches I have ever met. He is also one of the best men I have ever met. He runs his program with class and treats his players the right way. Win or lose on Friday night, nothing will change. He will still be Tracy's Dad and he will still be one of the best friends a coach can have.

Looking forward to Friday night!

No comments: