Dressed for success
Local basketball coaches share tastes in courtside sports fashion
A pause, and the thumb and forefinger touch the chin, while the brain considers defensive switches and foul totals, ball movements and man-to-man matchups: the thinker’s pose.
Now they’re crouched. Tense moments, always. Later, they spring in the air and flail a finger at a referee, then demand a timeout and pour words of wisdom on their players.
Show me serious. Give me suspense. Laugh.
With so many poses, and on such a courtside pedestal, fashion truly is on display when it comes to the basketball coach.
Among the Grand Junction high school teams, looking professional usually comes first. Because the players? Tank-tops and baggy shorts running and spinning and jumping in a game that’s part grace and part swagger. Balance is needed.
Dress shirts and ties are common with these coaches. Just how they were taught. It’s called old-school. See, in the school of old (whenever that really was) you dressed professionally, you matched the colors, because you were a role model.
Central boys coach Ryan Hayden got his style from Gary Childress, now a successful boys coach at Grandview; Fruita boys coach Billy Dreher got it from his Wildcats coach in the 1980s, Denny Squibb; Palisade boys coach Brian Tafel got it as an undergraduate coach at the University of Northern Colorado; and Fruita girls coach Richard Atkins, well, he always had it.
Not only does Atkins wear slick, aligned suits with colors matching the Wildcats’ blue-and-white, all the way up to his tie that’s sandwiched between his coat like a window in a frame, he arrives to games with the briefcase he’s had since 1964.
The olive green, wooden briefcase wrapped in a sort of artificial leather was his as a student at Texas A&M University. A small, white sticker with an American flag and the words: “My vote counted,” has been there for some time. Who knows how long?
“I figure nothing of value will get stolen in that sucker,” Atkins said.
After a game, the perfect suit-and-tied man takes the rectangular container directly to the locker room, a picture of professionalism.
“In my mind, that’s the way coaches’ attire should be,” Atkins said. “How you present yourself is important.”
It’s a flavor of the week, however, for Grand Junction’s Dutch Johnson.
“I am not a coat-and-tie kind of guy,” Johnson said matter-of-factly.
Nice khaki slacks, a Grand Junction Tigers polo shirt. Something he could shoot a pull-up jumper in.
“It’s easier,” he said with a laugh. ” I don’t think anyone on our staff has worn a tie for eight years.”
But Johnson, in his 10th season, admits he may have worn just a shirt and tie when he began. But two years later, “Billy Donovan” went all “Bobby Huggins” on everyone.
Proving, maybe, that you don’t have to look good to coach well?
“For 10 years, we haven’t looked good,” Johnson said, “or coached good.”
Time for a different conclusion. Some fall into fashion. Or marry into it. Grand Junction girls coach Sam Provenza might say he has game-day fashion choice. But it comes with a tiny twist of fashion fate: Sam’s wife, Karen Provenza, majored in fashion merchandising.
“My wife dresses me,” Sam said, “so I don’t go out of the house without her OK first. I’ll get ready to go out, and she’ll say, ‘You don’t really want to wear that, do you?’ I say, ‘Of course I don’t.’ “
Some men are lucky. Two become one flesh as well as one fashion.
“I think it’s great,” Karen Provenza said, “because he wears what I think he should.”
Karen’s game-day dress-up party usually means Sam’s wearing a shirt and jacket for home games, always matching the school’s orange and black. For afternoon and away games, he can dress down a bit: a logo-laced polo shirt and slacks.
But come playoff time ...
“I bet I’m wearing probably my best Oxford and maybe a jacket,” he said.
Sam wants to look good, so it’s OK.
Danielle Bagwell, girls coach at Palisade, and Mary Doane, girls coach at Central, don’t carefully stew their style.
“I probably don’t have style,” said Bagwell, who occasionally will wear a polo shirt to break up a steady rhythm of button-up shirts and a coat.
“If you were to ask my players what I wear,” Bagwell said, “what they’d say is I don’t have style.”
Mary Doane is in agreement with the Dutch Johnson fashion line, in terms of planning.
“I don’t have any scientific method for what I wear,” Doane said. “Sometimes it’s what’s ironed.”
But it’s always business-oriented. Professional. Nice dress pants and a dress shirt.
“It’s your job to be a role model, and as a coach part of that is being presentable of what you’re doing, and there’s kids in the stands and moms and dads in the stands, and they’re there,” Doane said. “It’s part of the game. You show a little bit of respect for yourself as a coach and what it is, because you put all the hard time and work into it.”
Billy Dreher is from that school of fashion past. But like the way he switches defenses a half-dozen times in a game, Dreher mixes shades of blue and occasionally sways from school colors to flash a gold sport coat over a dark-orange dress shirt.
Once in a while, he might slap on a turtleneck. Dreher played at Fruita Monument in the 1980s. He coaches the Wildcats now. Old school is new.
“That’s the way it’s been at Fruita,” Dreher said. “You dress the part. The old saying is, ‘If you don’t play well, at least you look good.’ ”