By Ray Hamill — It didn’t take long for Steve Kinder to miss coaching. A four-month shelter-in-place order saw to that.
This week, the long-time former Humboldt State men’s basketball coach was named as the new assistant coach at Hawaii Hilo, joining head coach Kaniela Aiona’s staff.
In March, Kinder was relieved of his head coaching duties at HSU and reassigned within the department as Director of Development, where he was responsible for fundraising for the department, a position he said that was a “good fit.”
But when the opportunity to get back into coaching came along, Kinder says it was too tempting not to take.
“Everybody on the planet is taking a deep breath right now from this day-to-day grind, and the COVID,” he said. “And it kind of hit me that I do miss (coaching). I do miss the guys and I do miss recruiting.
“I’m looking forward to getting back into an assistant coaching role. And this is a really good fit.”
Aiona was hired as head coach of the Pacific West Conference program in May and has described his coaching staff of Kinder and Aukai Wong as a “dream team.”
Quite a legacy
Kinder leaves quite a legacy at HSU, and one that stretched almost four decades.
He played for the Jacks back in the mid 80s, before joining head coach Tom Wood’s staff as an assistant shortly after that.
After 20 years in that role, he took over as the head coach of the program 10 years ago.
During his time with the team, which included an NCAA D-II final four appearance by the dominating Jacks of the early 2000s, the program won 11 championships and Kinder built a lifetime of memories.
“I’ll bleed green and gold forever,” he said.
Kinder led the Jacks to a California Collegiate Athletic Association championship four years ago, a title that was clinched in Stockton and a team that was the last to deny Division-I bound UC San Diego the conference title.
Afterwards, Will Taylor and his teammates gave Kinder a Gatorade shower.
“That’s one memory that really stands out,” a proud Kinder said.
It’s not the only one.
Kinder says what he’ll remember most from his time with the Lumberjacks is the players and seeing them graduate.
He says he’ll also remember some of the cheerleaders, or three of them to be precise, with his three young daughters memorably serving as cheerleaders and fan favorites in the East Gym during the dominating era of the early 2000s, when the Jacks were close to unbeatable at home.
“That was really special for me,” he said. “Those were really amazing times.”
One game he says that stands out was against Chico State a few years back, when he split his pants early in the contest.
“I had to sit down,” he recalled with a chuckle. “(Assistant coach) Rich Mendoza asked me why are you sitting down, why are you not up coaching, and I told him I split my pants.”
Athletic trainer Shannon Childs was dispatched to find a replacement pair by halftime, although Kinder recalls them being a little tight.
“I don’t know if we won or lost the game, but that was a fun night,” Kinder said.
The long-time coach also says he will remember the sacrifices everyone involved with the program made and the loyalty of many of the program’s fans and boosters.
“We used to go to Porter Street Barbecue for our pregame sandwiches for 20 years,” he said. “That was our tradition. Maybe that’s why I split my pants.”
As for the future, Kinder is enthusiastic about the new challenge and the move, although the San Diego native says he will definitely miss Humboldt County and the Lumberjacks.
He also believes the HSU program has a bright future under new head coach Tae Norwood.
“They’re in really good hands,” he said. “He’s on board and he’s got great energy. The excitement will continue and I wish them nothing but the best.”