ASHLAND—After nearly 30 years of coaching between North Medford and Southern Oregon University, current SOU assistant coach Ernie Adams has decided to retire.
It was a decision he made prior to the 2018 season starting, but it wasn’t until last week that he broke the news to the team.
“I got hugs and they cried and they all said the right things to me, which I appreciated the heck out of,” Adams said. “If you're doing things right you're getting a relationship with them. I mean it's not like you're just coach Adams, you develop a relationship."
Adams has spent the bulk of his career shuttling between the Black Tornado and the Raiders.
He got his start at the high school level through legendary North Medford coach Larry Binney. When Binney took the head coaching job at SOU in 2004, he “dragged” Adams there with him.
Upon Binney’s retirement in 2006, Adams enjoyed a year off before heading back to North Medford and then served his second stint at SOU in 2015.
The easy going assistant coach was a player favorite, and even though his 30-year career is now coming to an end, he said he still envisions himself around the program.
"I really want to get involved with improving the field,” he said. “I've got some connections, and I'm working on that already. These girls deserve the best. I gave the best I had as a coach, now I'm going to try to provide more for them physically in the field in their playing environment because they deserve it."
And where one door closes, another opens up.
SOU now has a vacant coaching position heading into fall ball, but filling it shouldn’t be too hard.
Former North Medford head coach, Mike Mayben, immediately comes to mind, as his daughter, Taelor, is going into her sophomore year and Mike was a volunteer coach for the Raiders for the second half of this past season.
“If that opportunity is open, then I'll sit down with my family—Taelor in particular and see if she's okay with dad sticking around—and see whether or not that's something we want to pursue,” Mayben said of the possibility of taking the open position. “That's really up to Jessica (Pistole) and we're open to whatever is available."
Pistole didn’t hesitate to affirm the program’s interest in Mayben.
“In a heartbeat. We would absolutely love to have him as a part of our coaching staff moving forward. From players and coaches, the consensus is unanimous," she said.
The situation unfolding at SOU marks another chapter in the give-and-take coaching circle that Adams and Mayben have enjoyed throughout their careers.
Mayben served in a part-time role with the Raiders this season because Adams had to be away for a few games.
It was a move that perhaps could have been disorienting, but wound up being wildly popular.
"We got better having coach Mayben involved,” Adams said. “It's a different voice, it's a different energy. I kind of relate it to the Charlie Brown Christmas Special when the parents are talking, it's “blah blah blah.” Well they've listened to me for four years some of them. Now we have this dynamic young man who's a phenomenal coach, who's talking and they're responding."
It should come as no surprise the Adams-Mayben tandem worked out.
After all, they coached with each other at North Medford High School, and in 2014, when Pistole was hired as the SOU head coach, Mayben recommended Adams for the open assistant coaching position.
“It means a lot to me,” Adams said. “Who wouldn't feel proud about that? I'll probably be bragging about that in the future. I got an endorsement from coach Mayben."
Four years after Mayben helped Adams get to SOU, Adams is helping Mayben stay there.
He advocated for Mayben to come on board for the stretch run, and now that Adams is retiring after nearly 30 years of coaching, he wants his full-time position to go to an old friend.
"I'd be ecstatic. That's the best way to put it because I care about these girls. I care about this program,” he said.
“He won't let me down but he knows he better not let me down too."