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In The Beginning, There Was State B And It Was Good

We have this vision of Jim Stinson reading Bible verses to his young sons - that is to say, passages of “Tournament Fever,” the best-selling (and only) book in the history of the State B.

We have concocted this whimsy of the Stinson children being lullabied to sleep by an old reel-to-reel recording of the Brewster pep band’s rendition of “On Wisconsin,” or a gentle humming of “Proud Mary” the way they used to play it at Lind.

We have it on good authority that the Stinsons’ devotion to all things B was never so extreme.

Most of the time.

“He dragged me all over the state in the summertime, writing that darn book,” recalled Andy Stinson.

Said brother Mark, “When I was 5 or 6, I’d sit at the press table and the stat guys - remember them? - would take care of me. I’d have a couple of bucks to buy popcorn and they’d make sure I was all right.”

They’d have to, because Dad would be engaged elsewhere in the Spokane Coliseum on another safari for lore.

Later, as a coach at both Northwest Christian and Davenport, he would write a little himself.

Tonight, he’ll just be a fretful witness.

Tonight, the tangled bloodlines of B basketball acquire another double knot when Andy and Mark Stinson become the first brothers to coach side-by-side at the Spokane Arena.

Not as head coach and assistant, but as head coaches of different teams on different courts at the same time - 9:30 p.m., or thereabouts.

“Though the way the girls tournament runs behind, Andy will probably be done by the time we start,” said Mark. “I figure we’ll get home at 2 in the morning.”

Andy Stinson has steered LaCrosse-Washtucna’s boys to state for the first time since the schools paired up more than a decade ago. The Tigercats draw Ritzville, which has beaten them twice, in the first round.

One court over, Mark Stinson has Tekoa-Oakesdale’s girls back in the B against Wilbur-Creston, a nightcap that will knock one hyphen into the consolation bracket.

Somewhere upstairs, Jim, Judy and Jennifer Stinson will guard against tennis-match neck and keep one another posted.

“I didn’t like the end of the tradition when they tore down the Coliseum,” admitted Jim Stinson, “but I like it now.”

Actually, the B purist in him still misses the fans’ mad dash for seats when the doors open for a session, and notes sadly that students can’t storm the floor to celebrate a championship. But his sons have saved him the trouble of regretting his retirement from active participation.

His employer, the Davenport school district, has saved him some trouble, too. Seems that when Stinson was coaching the Gorillas girls team to perennial Saturday night appearances a few years back, the school bowed to the inevitable hooky epidemic and declared B week “mid-winter break.” So Stinson has no classes to teach this week.

“Do you believe that?” protested Mark. “I have to be to school at 7 Thursday morning. But that’s part of the deal.”

For more than 20 years, the Stinsons have been part of the State B deal in some form. A quick recap:

Jim published his collector’s item “Tournament Fever” and a sequel in the 1970s before becoming head boys coach at Northwest Christian for five years. After he gave up the job, Andy and Mark both played for the Crusaders - Andy on the state title team of 1989. Jim returned to coaching with the girls in Davenport, where he and Jennifer shared in two state titles, a second-place finish and a third. Mark coached at NWC, then joined Tekoa-Oakesdale as an assistant on a team that finished second two years ago.

And now for something completely different.

“It’s not anything like it was as a player,” said Andy. “There’s a heavy responsibility factor, plus the pride in kids working so hard to attain a goal. There’s more of a community feeling this time for me.”

Likewise, Mark Stinson enjoys the shared ownership of a community - rather, communities’ - team.

“You’re playing in front of people who have gone before you, and playing in front of kids who want to do the same thing,” he said. “There’s pressure on all of us to make the right choices on and off the court, but there’s a big kick to it, too.”

But he’s allowed himself a small personal satisfaction because he’s “been a part of everybody else’s moment so many times.”

There were certain odds against this happening. Mark’s Nighthawks were missing five seniors off last year’s team and still put together a 23-3 season. Andy’s 25-3 Tigercats, saddled with that lengthening history of not making it to state, had to stave off elimination six times in nine nights after losing their first playoff game.

And yet when the two both went into coaching, it was almost as if you could see this day coming.

“It’s ironic, really,” Mark said. “When Dad wrote the B book, we had no connection to any B school. I would have gone to Shadle then.

“When Andy and I came out of college, we just wanted to get jobs. I’d like to think if we had all the choices we’d choose small schools.”

Andy does say it, in no uncertain terms.

“I remember saying in high school that if I was going to coach, the only place to be would be a B school,” Andy said. “This is where I want to be.”

And Dad?

“I can’t picture them coaching anywhere else,” Jim said.

He’d make book on it.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Blanchette The Spokesman-Review