For Eastern Washington University football fans, Friday night was time for a little closure.
So of course they opened their mouths and offered up a big cheer for former Eagle coach Beau Baldwin, who was back in Cheney to say goodbye to a few thousand friends.
The setting was Reese Court, where Baldwin and his family took center stage in front of the biggest basketball crowd of the season.
Most of the fans were out of their seats as Baldwin spoke.
“It’s overwhelming, really, to see everybody like this,” Baldwin said as he reflected on the last nine years and thanked coaches, players, fans and EWU administrators.
Baldwin also offered a tip of the hat to Eastern’s football past, especially longtime coach Dick Zornes.
“He laid the foundation,” said Baldwin, who also thanked predecessor Paul Wulff – who hired him as offensive coordinator in 2003 – and athletic director Bill Chaves, who named Baldwin to succeed Wulff five years later.
The torch was passed again last month, when Baldwin resigned after nine uber-successful seasons to become the offensive coordinator at California. Five days later, offensive line coach Aaron Best took the reins.
Since then, there’s been precious little time for reflection – until Friday night.
As the Eastern and Idaho basketball players emerged from the lockerrooms, Baldwin reverted to coach mode and worked up the crowd.
“Now let’s go get this ‘W’ tonight,” Baldwin said.
The Eagles and Baldwin will celebrate again Saturday afternoon at Showalter Auditorium on the EWU campus, where the Eagles will hold their annual EWU Football Awards Presentation.
Baldwin is confident that Best will carry on the Eagles’ winning tradition.
“Aaron doesn’t need my advice,” said Baldwin, who won five Big Sky titles and a national championship in nine seasons as head coach at Eastern. “Aaron just needs to be authentic – that’s something I’ve always said to my players.”
“Aaron loves this place as much as anyone and he has so many qualities that fit into being a successful head coach,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin’s departure happened at warp speed – that’s the nature of the business – but the festivities will give everyone a chance for some closure.
“Everything happened so fast, I didn’t get a chance to see a lot of people,” Baldwin said.
Meanwhile, Baldwin is acclimating just fine to the change in scenery – and otherwise – from Cheney to Berkeley.
“It’s just a different kind of culture,” said Baldwin, who spent the last two decades in the Inland Northwest.
“I love the ocean, the culture …it’s my first time in a truly big city,” Baldwin said.
Speaking of closure, Baldwin has closed a deal next month on a house in Berkeley. His wife Nicole and daughters Mia and Macie will join him soon.
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