Caines reflects on being a teacher and coach

BY ROBERT L. BAKER

When Alan Caines was just three months old, his parents Victor and Anna Caines moved from the village of Winton, just east of Peckville, to Auburn Center.

The move would put him squarely in what would become the Elk Lake School District, and when first grade rolled around in 1957, Caines started school in a new place he learned to love.

And he had a hard time leaving it.

A little over 43 years later, his classmates, colleagues and even students he taught and coached treated him to a retirement night Saturday he’ll not soon forget.

Caines reflected Sunday night on his love for sports and things competitive and guessed that part of it came with the territory of trying to get noticed in a family of nine.

When he was in third grade, he remembered watching an Elk Lake basketball game against a Montrose High School team that featured Doug Kerr. The Warriors pulled something of an upset, and from that point forward, he idolized a man by the name of Mike ‘Red’ Wallace, who would later become his basketball coach, mentor and friend.

But ahead of Wallace was a Little League coach named Harry Keeney, who would have a few swipes at sharpening Caines’ athletic abilities, and mostly his attitude.

“He set the example of what to do on and off the field,” Caines said. “He was a real good man who taught right from wrong and it was just the way it was.”

He added that Keeney had a grace about him that was unmistakable. “If we lost, he’d tell us we’ll just have to try a little harder next time. When we worked at it by gosh, we did get better.”

By seventh grade, he was lucky to be one of those kids who Coach Wallace took aside and said he could make something of his life.

“I knew then I wanted to be a PE teacher and coach,” Caines said, and had no idea I’d have a shot at being on a state championship basketball team four years later. “It just seemed so natural to be with other athletes.”

“Yes there were times when we lost, and I passed on the same advice as a teacher and coach I was given as a boy,” Caines said.

“Don’t quit. Don’t give up when you make a mistake.  Learn from your mistakes, and if you keep playing hard, good things will happen.”

They were lessons he passed on to everyone he met, and he especially takes pride in his three daughters- Becky, Kelly and Kim- who also excelled on and off the court.

And there was one other woman, his wife of 32 years, Debbie, who Caines said “has been the most positive person ever, who encouraged me to follow my dreams, and has been so supportive.”

“I’ve been lucky to be around them all,” Caines said. “It’s been a great run.”

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