Gordon Long has always been a man to stay where he’s comfortable.
When he arrived at Brooks Junior High in 1966, he felt comfortable enough to stay for the next 34 years, retiring in 2000. He became boys basketball coach in 1968 and served until his retirement.
“I enjoyed what I did,” he said. “I really did.”
How comfortable is he?
“We’ve only moved twice here in Wichita,” Long said. “This is only our second house.”
Long will be among those inducted today as the Wichita Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012, starting at 2 p.m. at Hillside Christian Church, 8330 E. Douglas.
Even though his most famous basketball student was Darnell Valentine, who went on to Heights and the University of Kansas, Long is hesitant to list others for a very good reason.
“I was afraid you were going to ask that,” he said. “I’m afraid I’m going to leave somebody out. That’s the thing that really bothers me, because some really good ballplayers went through there.
“Of course, if you want to take some of the outstanding ones, Darnell would be one because he played pro ball; (former Southeast High and Kansas State standout) Rashad Washington played pro football (for the New York Jets; currently on the Wichita Wild); (former Heights and Wichita State standout) Darren Dreifort played pro baseball (for the Los Angeles Dodgers).”
Grades were critical when he coached. If a student wasn’t doing well in the classroom, he wouldn’t play. And, none of his players wanted to miss games, Long said.
“The teachers said they always liked when basketball season started, because they knew the students wouldn’t act up then or get in trouble,” he said.
Grades were important, but so was playing strong defense.
“I really wanted to instill defense into my teams,” he said. “We got compliments from other coaches. They said they did not like to play us, because ‘We could not duplicate your defense into our practices.’ I felt that was a compliment from the other coaches."
Unlike his high school counterparts, it’s virtually impossible to chronicle Long’s success at the junior high/middle school level because few records and statistics exist for that level.
But that has not had an effect on his status. He is greatly acknowledged as the all-time leader in basketball victories at that level — but no one is certain about the total. The Hall merely states that because of Long’s tenure at Brooks and the number of Wichita City League Junior High Championships, he must have the largest victory total.
He said the biggest highlight of his career has to be watching his students progress after Brooks.
“A lot of them come back and we talk about the ‘old days’ at Brooks,” he said. “That’s probably the biggest thing, I think.”
And the influence a coach has on their lives.
“I hope so, anyway,” Long said.