By BOB PADECKY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
ROHNERT PARK — When it comes to coaching kids, we don’t lack for excellent candidates around here. We have coaches who have won
North Coast Section titles, coached state champions and Olympic hopefuls and have stadiums named after them. So when we asked Press Democrat readers to vote for the best youth sports coach in the area in 2013, our readers threw us a curveball we didn’t expect.
“I’m sure a lot of people said, ‘Who is David Kimari?’” said the young man with that name.
Dr. Bruce Mims hired Kimari to coach cross country and track and field at Tech High School on the SSU campus. Tech’s principal, Mims will take only one sentence to dispel any doubt that Kimari is a paper tiger.
“I’m going to enjoy the day,” Mims said, “when some big-time program will come to me to ask about hiring David.”
For Mims that day is inevitable, his response already formulated: Congratulations, wise choice. That a high school principal would say that about someone he just hired (in late February), is more than a compliment. Mims is giving a job recommendation even before one is necessary; now that’s having a bright future.
Not bad for a guy who got this job less than a year out of college; in the summer of 2012 he graduated from Sonoma State with his bachelor’s in kinesiology. Not bad for a guy, only 24, who’s never been a head coach before. And not bad, especially, for a guy who was thinking about going into the Army or the Navy at the start of 2013 — if his future didn’t start to take some definable shape.
Oh, and not bad for a guy who flunked the job interview.
“I’m not going to be a very good interview,” Kimari said when we met last week.
“Because I tanked the interview with Dr. Mims,” said the Penngrove resident.
And he still got the job.
“He said enough of the right things for me to dig a little deeper,” Mims said.
It’s not that Kimari didn’t take the job interview seriously. He knew athletics. He has seven years of experience as a volunteer track coach at his alma mater, Santa Rosa High School, and at various youth summer track programs in Sonoma County. A pole vaulter for the Panthers, Kimari leapt 13 feet, 6 inches. He was no stranger to the sport or to exercise for that matter: Kimari jumped on his bike last summer and went from Lake Tahoe to the Grand Canyon via the Sierra Nevada and Death Valley.
“It was the present I gave myself for graduating from SSU,” Kimari said.
So Kimari knew athletic commitment. He also knew job interviews were more than reciting college GPAs and favorite courses. But he went into the Mims interview thinking it would be good experience. He was only 24 and, as previously stated, Sonoma County doesn’t lack for coaching quality.
“He (Mims) grilled me pretty good,” Kimari said. “He was trying to find out what type of character I had. He wanted to see my personality.”
So how did Kimari know he flunked the interview?
“Dr. Mims told me the next day,” Kimari said. But between the interview and that phone call Mims had called two of Kimari’s job recommendations: Sean Fitzpatrick, the head cross country coach at SSU and Rhonda Roman, the store manager at Fleet Feet, where Kimari worked.
“I’m a pretty good evaluator of talent,” Mims said. “I know the quality of a champion when I see it. And David is a diamond in the rough.”
Mims didn’t mince words about what he expected from Kimari.
“He laid out his championship rings in front of me,” Kimari said, “and told me he wanted more.”
Mims was the principal of Westchester High School in Los Angeles where the school’s basketball team won three Division 4 state championships. This season Tech’s boys track and field team exceeded even outrageous expectations. In its first year, at the Coastal Mountain Conference meet, Tech placed second among all NCL II schools and 11th out of 14 CMC schools, which consist of NCL I, NCL II and NCL III.
“We had a couple kids who started the season running 6:30 miles,” Kimari said. “By the end of the season they were running 5:30s.”
Success always seems to make people happy, especially the parents of high school athletes. At the end of track season the parents of Tech’s runners got together and presented Kimari with a nice gift card. It wasn’t, as he learned, because of the kids’ performing as much as them appreciating the time he took to know them.
“I hate texting and I hate e-mails,” Kimari said. “I like conversation. I like to talk to someone face-to-face. I don’t like to categorize a person.”
He isn’t an autocrat either. He remembered some coaches who gave orders with little explanation. He disliked that.
“I would go online or read a book to find out the reason why (a coach would say something),” Kimari said. “I don’t want my kids to have to do that.”
Approachable, patient, curious, non-judgmental, any good coach has that. The youthful Kimari likes to think he has those qualities, as well as time. He’s already quizzed a few coaches in the area on philosophy and strategy. He’s read a book or two. He’s done his research.
“When I was hired, I didn’t even know what conference or league Tech was in,” Kimari said.
“I knew Tech was about robotics, chemistry, math, smart kids. And that was about it.”
Anything after that, Kimari acquired through sweat equity. It is the most stable and secure of learning curves because intent and effort are the solid foundation of any career, be it in sports or otherwise. Kimari, the way Mims saw it, had everything he needed except the opportunity.
As Mims might deadpan, the rest will be history.
You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or firstname.lastname@example.org.