In an advanced taping of an interview for “The Sports Brew Show” with Paris School District athletic director Casey Mainer, it did not take long for all to know that Paris athletics are a passion for Mainer. In the position of director of athletics, a job he refers to as “his dream job”, the crew of the Sports Brew Show discussed the recent coaching hires in the district’s basketball program, as well as the state of the department as it has navigated its way through the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has been a busy time of year for Mainer and Paris athletics. The spring is usually full of sporting events and end of school year activities, but as we all know, a viral pandemic put a sudden stop to all things school-related. We asked Casey about how the last few months have been for him and the athletic department. “This time of year is tough, and with all of the issues going around the world today related to the pandemic, it increases the intensity of our jobs. It’s a good time and it is exciting.”
Casey Mainer and his colleague, Trey Prieur, along with the district administration, have been very busy filling vacancies in the boys and girls basketball programs. “First of all, for our boys program, we were able to hire Blain Brewington. He comes to us with a wide variety of experiences; he G.A’d (graduate assistant coach) with the Razorbacks for a while, he has been to Lonoke and Nettleton, and we were in love with Blain when he sent his resume in, and the more people we called and asked questions about him, it just solidified what we had thought about him. We actually had to “zoom” (online video interview) the first initial interview with him because of the restrictions associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. Once that got settled and we were comfortable enough with having him come down and visit with us, we were super excited about what Blain could bring to our program.”
The girls basketball program also began a search to replace the sudden vacancy created by the departure of Dustin Williams to Little Rock eStem High School as head basketball coach. In describing the promotion of Donal Hart from assistant girls basketball coach to the new head coach of the team, Mainer said, “We were able to promote Donald Hart to the head coach position. In the three years that Donald has been here, he has proven that he run a program, and that he is an “old school approach”, which is one thing that attracted me to him. I like how he handles the girls, how he holds them accountable, their mentality and philosophy of being in shape, and their commitment to the team. Those were things that, I wouldn’t say we were missing, but we needed to take it a step further.”
Mainer stated that winning is what people remember you for, and without a doubt, Casey is committed to a winning program in all sports at Paris. But the Eagles athletic director went on to say, “I will say that when Trey and I looked at the candidates for possible coaches to fill the positions, if you take care of the little things, they will become big things that lead to winning. If you are disciplined, on-time, accountable for how you act, how you work, then winning is going to take care of itself. And if we hire good quality people with good character, then that has been my experience that winning will follow that.”
There is a youth movement taking place in the Paris athletic department with all head coaches in each sport being young and presently involved in their first opportunities to be head coaches. I asked Casey if the youth movement was deliberate or accidental having just worked out that way due to the circumstances of each hire. Mainer responded, “I would love to tell you that it was planned. But one thing we do look at is, first of all, somebody’s character, how they handle themselves, and, secondly, we look at how bad do they want THIS job. Not a basketball job, or a football job, or any other sport; how bad do they want that particular job and why do they want to be in Paris and be a Paris Eagle. Because that means something to me. You can’t just want a job. You need to be part of the community and want to see OUR kids succeed. That’s one thing that we definitely look at. The youth movement…to be able to connect with kids this day and time, it is important that the coaches are able to connect with the kids. The youth movement helps to do that. Some of them (coaches) have not been out of college that much longer than some of the kids they may be coaching in high school. Others have been experienced. Coach Donald Hart has experience in other workplaces. Josh Hart has experiences outside, and so does Jordan (Devine), has experience in her family business, so they know how to deal with people and they know how to deal with kids, and they know how to communicate. So, the fact that they are young, that is a plus in our book. They are hungry and they need to prove themselves in their jobs. If and when they want to move on, they have to be successful here.”
Paris finds itself at a point where the perfect combination of talented players that will play all sports at Paris high school over the next three years with new, talented, and enthusiastic coaches. In the case of new coach Blain Brewington, an applicant that was employed at a Class 5A school, more than five hours away, he found himself attracted to the western Arkansas community of Paris and its talented players that he would have the opportunity to coach over the next few years. Quite a compliment to the community of Paris and to the student-athletes that are talented and many in all sports.”
The second portion of Mainer’s interview was originally scheduled to air on yesterday’s show, but due to the unexpected length of the show, the second segment of his interview will be aired on next week’s show, June 30.
The first guest on yesterday’s live show was longtime Paris assistant coach, Jerry Fulmer. After starting his career in the Alma school district, Coach Fulmer moved to Paris in 1990 and has called Paris his home ever since. For thirty years, Jerry Fulmer has been a loyal and dedicated assistant coach in a variety of sports. In short, he has served the athletic department from year to year, wherever he was needed. He is an example of rare loyalty and devotion to a district that is very uncommon in today’s job market.
And loyalty is not Coach Fulmer’s only asset. Most recently, as an assistant coach for the Lady Eagles volleyball program dating back to the start of its successful run under former coach Wes Davis, many of the Lady Eagles have directly credited Fulmer with their individual skill development within the sport. Fulmer is a technitian how analyzes every aspect of the game. While standing in the shadows of head coaches, Fulmer is at work teaching the players and supporting the head coaches. He is the consumate example of a loyal assistant who loves the sport, loves the player, and is fiercely loyal to his head coaches.
So, I had to ask Coach Fulmer THE question. It is so unusual for a person to remain in one position for almost his entire career. He has worked in the shadows of the programs, watching head coaches be credited for the success of their programs. So, Coach Fulmer, have you had opportunities to leave Paris to become a head coach? And if so, why did you remain at Paris? And after I asked these questions, I was even more impressed with Coach Fulmer from his answers. The longtime Paris Eagle coach said, “Paris is just a special place. It has that “it” factor. Other people come in and talk about the Eifel Tower, and the Square, and how we do things, and it has always been a special place. Evidently we take some of this stuff for granted because people from the outside tell us that not every community has what we have. Tome, its about family, making great friends, supporting each other, and, so, I just really didn’t want to leave. A few years ago, back in Alma, they hired a new volleyball coach and she talked to Coach Davis about needing an assistant. I received an email from her asking me if I would like to come to Alma to interview to be her assistant. I really thought about going, but I thought that I am really happy being here in Paris. The volleyball program (Paris) was good and I thought, this is where I want to be. I didn’t even apply at Alma; I really appreciated the offer, but I thought I would have been wasting their time because I really didn’t have a desire to leave Paris.”
Fulmer has been an assistant boys basketball coach for several years, and has recently made the decision to step away from the program. When asked why by host Marvin Wiggins, Fulmer replied, “It has kind of been in the works for a little bit for me to choose between volleyball or basketball. This has been in the works for around one year. It was just simply because; in January I think there were just two days that I did not go to basketball, maybe two or three days. I’m talking about from January 1 to January 31st. It’s just time that you put in to coach; it’s literally 60 – 80 hours per week. And when I get out of volleyball, there were times when we would finish on a Saturday and that next Tuesday we had a basketball game. There is no time between sports. There is no down time for me; even in the summer. I would go to volleyball practices in the morning and then we would go to Ozark or Waldron, or somewhere in the afternoon. I just felt like I had to have some family time.”
And speaking of time, Amy Trusty and her husband Rick, appeared on the show as the next guests. Amy, who has been an integral part of the “Mama Eagles” parent organization that supports the athletes of all sports in Paris, shared with the listening audience the time and the love they have invested in supporting the athletic program. Rick, one of many members of the Trusty family who excelled in several sports at Paris, spoke with Amy about the time commitment each of them invested over the years in serving in several capacities of volunteer support for Paris athletics.
In a segment entitled “Passing the Torch”, Amy and Rick Trusty reflected on their times supporting the Paris athletic department, and most recently, their son Luke as he played his senior year in both football and basketball.
When asked about the Trusty legacy in Paris, Rick responded by saying, “I have five brothers. It has been fun. My kids are spread out six years apart, so, when one graduates, you have another one in the seventh grade. So, you just keep going and going. We have been involved in the program a long time. My first game (Paris football game) that I watched was in 1968. I’ve enjoyed it. It has been a good ride.”
Rick has been involved with the football stat (statistics) crew for many years. “I worked the stat crew for forty years.” The stat crew is on the field each game day keeping game stats for the Paris coaching staff. And for forty years, Rick was always there.
Host Tim Johns spoke with Rick and Amy about the Trusty name being synonomous with Eagles athletics. In speaking of the investment into the programs, Amy said, “I don’t know if we could count the hours. We have never really tried to, we just did everything we could do to be there for our town and our community, and our kids. We helped our football teams, our basketball teams, not just because of our own children, but mainly because there are a lot of kids that don’t have parents that are there and can’t be there for fundraising work, or whatever, and we were there as much as we could be. I have a list of things that we tried to do. It wasn’t just us; there were so many people in this community that anytime we went and asked for something the answer was always yes. Always what can I do, or, what else can I do…they would always step up. The businesses in town, the churches in town, the people here. Like Coach Fulmer just said, there is something about our town.”
So, Rick and Amy Trusty are “passing the torch” of everything they have done for the Paris athletes on to the next generation of parents. But that does not mean that you will not see them next year at the Paris games. Amy said, “We are actually looking for stadium seats. We have never had any because we did not have a need for them. And so, we are going to get some and sit down.” And sitting down will be a new experience for the two who have constantly been on there feet working concession stands, keeping stats, or doing any number of tasks on the many game nights throughout the sports seasons.
As the segment ended, the Trustys shared a story about their son, Luke, in his final football game last season. On a cold night in Paris, the Eagles were wrapping up the season at home. Amy told the story. “It was Luke’s last game; it was Rick’s last game keeping stats…it was one of my last night’s with the Mama Eagles, and that was a big night for us. We had all of our family there. I didn’t know the plays like Rick does. We are all there, and the one’s who know football and know the plays, they knew it was coming. But, they passed it to Luke and he scored a touchdown. It was senior night, it could not have been more perfect. The cannon went off, and I am sitting there in awe of it having been a wonderful evening, and I looked up, and the smoke from the cannon was in the shape of an Eagle. I was looking at that…it was just a sign that we did this…we did our year.” The picture that was taken after Luke’s score is one of a surreal image of an eagle, in great detail, hovering over the Paris football field. Quite an image, and quite a memory for the entire Trusty family.
In the “20 / 20” senior highlight segment, “The Sports Brew Show” had Class of 2020 graduates KenLeigh Robertson and Ethan Needham. The two graduates are also boyfriend and girlfriend. Show host Tim Johns put the two through the paces by playing a game on the air with them that asked each how much they knew about the other. After three years of dating, both KenLeigh and Ethan proved that they knew each other well….with the exception of one question…who is the boss? So, I’ll just say that they did not agree with their answers, but it was obvious that both are very happy as a couple.
When asked about the sudden end to their senior year, Ethan said, “It was very unexpected. None of us were expecting it at all. Nobody knew what to do, or knew what the next day was going to bring. We just went day-by-day. School was let out, sports were done, so, we just didn’t know what to think. School was over, and we just played it by ear. We only went to school three quarters of the year, and that was it.”
When asked about what happened after school was closed, KenLeigh responded by saying, “Pretty much, if you had good grades you were pretty much done. We only had to do like one week of work, but our senior year was over.”
When asked what their plans are now that they have graduated from high school, Ethan indicated that he plans to begin study at Arkansas Tech University at Ozark. “I plan to attend Tech in Ozark for heating and air, go the full two years and get an Associate’s Degree. I just want to get started as soon as I can and I would like to eventually come back to Paris and start my own heat and air business.”
When KenLeigh was asked the same question, she shared, “I plan to go to ATU at Russlleville to get my business management degree, and when I finish, I plan to come back to Paris.” So, from the comments of both KenLeigh and Ethan, perhaps the two will be working in business together in their home towns! However it works out for them, we all wish each the best of success in their future plans. All of Paris is extremely proud of these outstanding young adults, and I know they will always be Eagles for life.
Being an Eagle for life also means staying strong in the most difficult of times. In a show segment titled “Keeping Paris Strong”, pastor Kenny Manus and his wife, Denise, appeared on the show. The pastor of the First Assembly of God Church in Paris started by saying, “It has been a lot of fun doing the Facebook Live and going online. We had to do some quick adjustments on the first Sunday after we received recommendations from our state office and the government. It has been a learning curve. Every week we had adjustments to make. I would like to give cuddos to my wife, Denise, for doing such a fantastic job leading our worship. And her team, which Marvin (host Marvin Wiggins) is a part of, and they did just a fantastic job. But it has been a lot of fun. We did that for about a month by ourselves, and then we went outside and then we went back inside for about a month. We have the greatest comradery between our churches and pastors in this city than any other place I have ever seen. I have talked to other pastor friends in other parts of the state and I have shared what we are doing. Having services together, we meet monthly, and, you hear that from other denominations, and this is a shining star for this community.”
Denise spoke about how the ministry is a family affair. “You have to come to grips with the fact that it is a family affair. I knew pastors whose wives are not involved and it works for them. But that does not work for us. He (Kenny) as taught me a lot. I hope that we compliment each other. He never meets a stranger. I am a little bit more reserved than that; I have to get better at that. He will meet you one time, and it may take him a little of time, but he will remember who you are and where he met you.”
Tim, Denise, and Kenny reflected on an old song, “Signs of the Times”, that spoke of the comfort that comes from knowing that God is in control, even during the worst of times. Denise said, “Absolutely, I think one of the things we have found that has been the most comforting is, that for me, my life has slowed down and it has been refreshing for me. It has given me time to think about what my priorities are. I know that God will lead us in the most uncertain of times.”
Pastor Kenny is right…Paris is very unique, and part of that comes from the great spiritual network of church pastors across all denominations that is in place for the people of Paris.
As the show went into its last segment, the content of the show, as you can see from this story, was quite extensive, and the show was well beyond its stated time slot. But being that a it is, its speaks volumes about the large numbers of great people and events that are happening in the little town of Paris. However, all good things have to come to an end, and it became necessary to re-schedule the second half of the Casey Mainer interview for next week’s show.
The final segment that focused on Arkansas Razorbacks news and events, a wide variety of news was discussed by guest Steven Davenport and the Sports Brew hosts. Topics ranged from the day’s announcement by Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey, who announced a decision on the upcoming SEC football season starting date would be made in late July, to the news that former Razorbacks Dan Hampton and Brandon Burlesworth had been placed on the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame. This and other Razorbacks news on recruiting was discussed.
Razorbacks fans will want to be sure to tune into the Sports Brew Show on July 7 for a special show on Razorbacks sports. Special guests will include former Razorbacks football players Ron Trusty and Brad Taylor. You will not want to miss this show! Stay with Resident Press next week for more information on this special edition of “The Sports Brew Show”!
Next week’s show will include the second half of the interview with Paris athletic director Casey Mainer. Other guests will also make their appearances along with another edition of the Hogs / Eagles round table. Just go to thesportsbrew.net at 4 p.m. every Tuesday.
And as always, Resident Press will be here each week to bring you the latest in the “Sports Brew Show” and all sports across the River Valley.