Friday, May 20, 2011

SPORTS>>White makes farewell at meet

Leader sportswriter

After 35 years at Cabot High School and 23 years as athletic director, Johnny White ended his time doing the usual — putting out fires.

White, who announced his retirement in January, had to cut a farewell newspaper interview short at the Heptathlon/Decathlon on Thursday when Panthers track coach Leon Whitestormed into White’s office on the third floor of Cabot’s plush fieldhouse with one final crisis.

“The standard on the high jump is broken; we need a C-clamp or something that will hold the bar up,” Leon White said.

“Okay, I’ll get somebody,” Johnny White said as he reached for the cell phone on his left hip.

Three calls later, and the problem was handled. The first flight of the girls high jump, delayed by nearly half an hour, went on as planned after maintenance personnel arrived with replacement parts.

It was one last moment of drama for White in a career filled with travel budgets, booster club meetings and plenty of success.

White started his career in the fall of 1976 as coach of the Cabot boys basketball and golf teams.

He resigned in 1986 and filled in where needed within the department until athletic director and principal Jack Carrington resigned as athletic director in 1988 to focus on school administration.

White took over the athletic department and also served as head of transportation for a number of years.

But as quickly as White grew into his dual positions, he was challenged by the growth of the school, which went from a Class AA program at the time of his arrival to its 7A classification and status as the third largest school in the state.

“I was wearing two hats for at least 20 years,” White said. “It was okay at the time. We were only running 75-80 buses. And by the time I got out, we were up to 100 buses, 100 routes, and it was just really, really busy.

“It was a never-ending day.”

The two-day Heptathlon/Decathlon was White’s last official event as athletic director, and as the hours wound down, nostalgia began to set in. White said the countdown began after Cabot wrapped up the state soccer tournament last week.

“After we finished that state soccer tournament, it’s not business as usual,” White said.

“I’m finally looking to the countdown of the days — just reflecting on how fast that 35 years went. It just seems like it was yesterday that I started working here.”

White first plans to rest and relax and then take a trip to Greece with his daughter at the end of June.

After that, his options are open.

“I’ve got some job offers,” White said. “I don’t know if I want to work. I want to just rest, and travel and enjoy myself. I don’t know what the future is going to hold.”

There are offers to coach high school basketball in Texas, but White has children and grandchildren in the Cabot area and said leaving would be hard.

When the football Panthers take the field in September, it will mark the first time in over two decades White has not had a hand in preparing for the season.

But retirement will give him a chance to attend the games in an unfamiliar capacity, as a face in the crowd.

“Oh no, I plan on being here,” White said. “It’s a time where I can watch and not have to work and just have fun.”

White’s longtime assistant Pam Clem took exception to the idea.

“I wouldn’t say that — that you’re not going to have to work,” Clem said.

With a laugh White admitted he would continue to perform at least one important duty.

“Pam says I’m going to have to work,” White said. “And I will be available to help them. I’ve cooked a lot of hamburgers over at that baseball/softball complex, and I’m sure I will continue to cook some burgers for them.”