Olathe North football coach Gene Wier will miss seeing Dick Purdy standing on the opposite sideline come the fall of 1999.
Purdy announced Monday that he is retiring after 41 seasons of coaching high school football, the last nine spent at Lawrence High.
Wier said he and fellow coaches depended on the LHS coach because of his experience and clout, especially with Purdy's involvement in the Greater Kansas City Football Coaches Association. Purdy was the first president of the GKCFCA.
"For us coaches, I think he was the one you lean to," said Wier, who had a 7-7 record against Purdy and met him five times in the state playoffs. "When there are concerns, he's the one you listen to a little bit longer."
Like Wier, Lawrence's assistant coaches were disappointed Purdy stepped down.
"It amazed me how much he can get out of coaches and his staff," said LHS assistant Jerry Skakal, part of Purdy's staff the past five years and at Shawnee Mission West in the late 1970s. "He made you want to work hard. I always envied that aura he could bring out in coaches and athletes. That's a pretty special gift."
Assistant Chuck Holley, who along with Dirk Wedd coached under Purdy all nine seasons at LHS, said he was fortunate to be associated with Purdy.
"He's a competitor and he made the kids believe even though we may have been short-handed at times," Holley said.
Scott Stidham, a 1989 LHS graduate, joined Purdy's staff fresh out of college in the fall of 1994.
"He taught me everything I know," Stidham said. "I owe him everything for giving me a break. He gave me a break when a lot of people wouldn't give me a chance at my age."
Stidham played high school football under Bill Freeman, Purdy's predecessor. Freeman retired in 1990.
"I didn't know much about him," Stidham said of Purdy. "I just knew he won a lot of football games."
Free State High head coach Bob Lisher was an LHS assistant under Purdy in 1990-93 before accepting the Blue Valley North head coaching job.
"Coach Purdy was a very dedicated football coach," Lisher said. "He taught me a lot about the X's and O's of football and how to treat kids. It's a sad day for me to see him go."
Two members of the Lions' 1995 state championship team -- Shane Wedd and J.D. Loudabarger -- were also sad to see Purdy go.
"He walked into this program with all the pressure that comes with it," said Wedd, the starting center on the '95 squad. "You don't just have to win, you have to win state championships -- and he won five. Some of the things he did for players and students outside of football and how he cared for people and values is what really counts."
Loudabarger quarterbacked the Lions to the '95 title, the city's last championship in football.
"He's the kind of guy who would do anything for you. He's somebody I can open up to and he'll always be there to listen," Loudabarger said. "He definitely got a lot out of his players. When you look at a Lawrence team, you don't see that many Div. I players, but he was able to get the most out of his players.
"He hasn't had the biggest names but he seems to win state championships."
Purdy met with his players at 11 p.m. on Monday to inform them of his decision.
"It really hit hard," said LHS junior Bryce McMichael, the Lions' likely starting quarterback for the 1999 season. "All the juniors -- the seniors-to-be -- were emotional. We couldn't imagine playing for anybody else."
McMichael's father, Scott, played quarterback for Purdy at Shawnee Mission West in the early '70s. Like his father, Bryce had hoped to play under Purdy for his final year of high school.
"That was supposed to be the way it was to go," Bryce said. "I was looking forward to getting to play for him like my dad did. It added to the shock."
Scott wished Purdy had waited one more season to leave LHS.
"For selfish reasons I'd like to see him stick around for one more year," Scott said. "Obviously he felt it was the right time for him. He's paid his dues and I'm thankful my son had him be a part of his life for two years."
-- Steve Rottinghaus' phone message number is 832-7152. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org