Kelly reflects on tenure
NOTE: TO BE RUN AS COLUMN AT NEWS1.5, WITH PICTURE OF KELLY IN MIDDLE
DATELINE IS NOT NAPERVILLE, BECAUSE WE WERE AT O'HARE AT TIME OF INTERIVEW -david
By David Rothstein
CHICAGO, IL -- As a high school student, Gordon Kelly considered himself a baseball and football player, not a track and field man. But some 34 years after leaving Bay Shore, NY, where he grew up and attended high school, Kelly is nothing but the track and field man at MIT.
Kelly has coached MIT's indoor and outdoor track and field teams for 28 years, including the past 17 as head coach. His teams have enjoyed great success over the years, particularly in the 1980s, when the MIT established a 62-meet unbeaten streak and won 11 indoor and outdoor New En-
gland Division III championships, never finishing worse than fourth. The Engineers placed second at this year's NCAA Division III national indoor championship.,
After 28 years, Gordon Kelly is giving up his coaching duties and concentrating on the role of director of physical education, a job he has held for seven years.
Two weeks ago Kelly took what he called the "best team we've ever had" to the NCAA Division III outdoor championships, held at North Central College in Naperville, IL. Last year's team tied for fifth at the outdoor championships, and this year's team had the potential to take first or second.
But the fickle hands of fate spun a different web, and after senior standouts Bill Singhose and Boniface Makatiani suffered injuries, MIT finished in a tie for 12th place.
"Probably when many years have passed, we may think, `Oh, gee, we finished 12th in the NCAA. That's pretty good,' " said Kelly while waiting at O'Hare International for the airplane home. "But we've come to have higher expectations, so obviously nobody's real happy that things turned out this way.
"But that's life and that's sports and that's the
way it goes. There are a lot of things a lot worse in life than having a couple of hamstring pulls.
Perspective means the world to Kelly. With so much success of late, Kelly hasn't forgotten what it's like to lose:
"Athletics go up and down. You've got to keep it in perspective, and as a coach, you gotta be a little bit gracious as a winner. I've been on the other side when people were thumping us.
Kelly attended Springfield College, and after graduating in 1960 with a degree in physical educa-
tion (he minored in biology), attended SUNY-Buffalo, where he earned a master's degree in education.
College track and field entered Kelly's life in part by chance. Freshmen at Springfield were required to play spring football then, and when football was over, said Kelly, "the only team that would take me was track.
"I had some sort of instant success in track, so I stuck with it."
That sort of success included a win in the pole vault at the All-New England Championships during Kelly's senior year. The meet was held at MIT.
Two years later Kelly returned to MIT in the role of assistant coach to Springfield graduate Art Farnham.
"That's the best kind of
coaching you can do, as an assistant," recalled Kelly. "Head coaching is more concerned with the total program, and the focus becomes a little bit different. An assistant coach is just coaching . . . that's probably the purest kind of job you can have."
The coming years will see Gordon Kelly finish his eight remaining years as head of physical education. He has not ruled out returning to coaching. In fact, you can bet he will return.
"At this point, I think is something I have to put aside to achieve some things that [MIT
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is] paying me to do administratively. I thought that after seven years would get easier each year, and it's not."
But Kelly has no regrets. Except for a possible try at aviation, he said, there were not a lot of other things he aspired to do in life.
"Coaching is a lot like being a parent," he said. "You're trying to have [the athletes] achieve the most, just like you'd like your kids to.
"There's certain amount of discipline that is required to do that, and you want to do it to be fair, and you want them to like you. Maybe some coaches say they don't care if the team likes them, but I don't think I could ever say that honestly . . ."
The time for boarding had come, and most of the team was on the plane.
"I'm proud of these guys," said Kelly, thinking back to the season just ended. "The most important things is this is a good group of guys. They're good representatives of MIT."
And so has Gordon Kelly, for 28 years, been a good representative himself.