Former Tiger basketball coach and athletic director Jim Gordon passes away in Arizona

By Ed Martin, Editor
Former Tiger basketball coach and athletic director Jim Gordon passes away in Arizona

A local coaching legend passed away Friday evening (Feb. 9) in Prescott, Arizona. Jim Gordon often praised as Lemoore High School’s most successful basketball coach, succumbed to pancreatic cancer. He was initially diagnosed with cancer last year but struggled with his recovery following surgery.

According to his family, Gordon, 67, who leaves behind his wife Danelle, daughter Nicole Alvarez, son Chris, and six grandchildren, will be interned in Prescott. The family held a service on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. in Hanford’s First Christian Reform Church, located at 2175 Leoni Drive.

His son Chris officiated the memorial service.

Gordon was an instrumental figure in the lives of numerous players, students, friends and fellow teachers. He was a devout Christian and a pillar of the community. As a part-time sports editor, I wrote the following column about Gordon following his final basketball game (as athletic director he was asked to return to the court a few years later).

The article sort of sums up the character and integrity of the Jim Gordon that I knew, on and off the court:

From The Lemoore Advance, Sports Words

The words class and sports don’t often go together. It’s difficult sometimes to put the same two words in the same sentence and force them to make sense. When you’re successful – and that’s rare in these days of strikes, astronomical salaries and egos to match the sporting names that come to mind include such luminaries as Dimaggio, Mays, Wooden, and Dean Smith.

Move Dimaggio, Mays, Wooden, and Smith; we’re adding at least one more name to that list.

In my 13 years of covering the local sports scene, there hasn’t been a classier guy, nor a more natural person to work with than Lemoore High School Varsity Boys’ Basketball Coach Jim Gordon. From his classy election of ties and sportscoats to his calm, underlying demeanor, Gordon exemplifies the true nature of what class in sports is all about.

The guy was always available when you needed him; always quick with an honest answer; always the consummate teacher, always the classiest of gentlemen – on and off the court.

Gordon, still a young man, despite the color of his hair – which incidentally no one seems to know its color (but that’s another column altogether), is calling it quits after 17 very productive years at the helm of a highly successful program. His record speaks for itself: five Division 3 valley championships, seven West Yosemite League titles, and an impressive 276-151 record. There hasn’t been a more productive nor enduring coach over the last 20 years in the Central Section.

Year after year, Gordon has always had his teams ready to play competitive basketball, regardless of the talent.

His players and the fans who love Lemoore basketball recognized Gordon’s class act and over the years have let him know about it. Never in his tenure has Gordon ever felt the wrath of his superiors, nor the antipathy of the Tiger faithful. Other coaches have come and gone after promising better things and delivering nothing more than broken promises. To the best of my knowledge, Gordon never promised quick fixes. He promised only to teach his players and field a competitive team, which he did – year after year – without fail.

There were never any calls from the stands questioning his tactics or blaming him for the defeats. And that’s unusual in sports. I would have heard them if there were. There were a lot of losses in 1994-95 – Lemoore finished at 9-16 overall – Gordon’s worst season as a basketball coach. His squad finished at 2-6 in the West Yosemite League and barely escaped the cellar.

Gordon never had to worry about his job because his superiors recognized class when they saw it. They also understood that in addition to his abilities as a coach he was a great teacher too. And after all, at the high school level that’s what it’s all about anyway, isn’t it?

His players often worshipped him as Wooden’s players worshipped the Wizard of Westwood. Over the years many of his players have gone on to play college basketball: Eric Gable, Tom Ford, Tommy Jones, Pat Vieira, Bernard Bellamy, Jimmy Moore, and many others. While indeed the talent in those players was always there, it was Gordon who helped to shape it and provide them with a showcase to exploit it.

His current crop of players, heavy underdogs to a highly explosive Hanford team, went out Friday night and won one for the Gipper. On a last-second shot by Chris Gordon (Gordon’s son), Lemoore beat the Bullpups 74-72 to send the Tiger coach out on a red carpet. The loss capped a disappointing season for the Tigers, and judging from the outpouring of emotion after Friday’s season finale; you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who thought the season was a failure.

The victory also cost the Bullpups the league title. Mt. Whitney won it by beating Redwood.

Gordon isn’t going anywhere. He’ll still be working at Lemoore High School. He’s only leaving his job as varsity boys’ basketball coach. Whoever gets the job will have some big sneakers to fill. It isn’t going to be easy replacing one of the classiest guys on campus. Could Gordon lend his successor a few of his ties or maybe one of his sportscoats - for luck?

But even that won’t be enough.

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