Recognizing years of coaching excellence
Gordon Kronberger was one of the most successful basketball coaches in Crook County High School history.
"Gordon had a big heart and he loved the game so much," said Mike Ball, one of Kronberger's assistant coaches while he was at CCHS. "I never saw him get mad in all the nine years I was around him. I will miss him."
Kronberger coached the girls' basketball program at CCHS for nine years, then spent two years coaching the boys' program.
Playing against larger schools in the Intermountain Conference, Kronberger took both the boys and girls programs to the state playoffs.
Kronberger, who had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease, passed away Sept. 27, in Nampa, Idaho. He was 78 years old.
Kronberger is one of the winningest coaches in Oregon history. Exactly where he ranks on the list of Oregon coaches is unclear because he spent much of his time coaching at smaller schools, which do not always keep adequate records.
Kronberger earned his wins at schools such as Falls City, Jefferson High School (near Albany), Mitchell, Yoncolla, and Crook County.
Searching through what records are available, Kronberger won 293 games. However, that fails to account for 11 years of coaching prior to his coming to Crook County and only accounts for two years after he left, although he may have coached more.
In his nine years coaching the CCHS girls' program, Kronberger compiled a 133-77 record and a fourth-place finish at the state tournament.
If those 11 years were anywhere near as successful as his 11 years at CCHS, that would give him more than 500 career victories, putting him in the top 25 winningest coaches in Oregon history.
"I feel like what made Gordon a successful coach was his discipline and drive that he instilled in us," said Amber Freeman, who played for Kronberger. "That and the perseverance that he also built within us to believe in ourselves. We wanted to be the best that we could be."
Freeman added that Kronberger was the kind of coach that you could love and hate at the same time.
"You could love and hate Gordon at the same time," she said. "Especially when most of us played soccer to condition for basketball and also participated in track to condition for basketball, so we saw him all year."
In two years with the boys' program, he compiled a 22-25 record and a state playoff appearance.
"I was very sorry to hear that Gordon had died recently," said Ryan McCarthy, who played for Kronberger and is now the head women's basketball coach at University of Alaska Anchorage. "I had sent him some old newspaper articles and a thank you letter before he had passed, letting him know how impactful he was during my high school days. For me personally, coach Kronberger was the first coach who demanded a great deal from me in the summer and made the gym available to improve individually."
McCarthy also noted that Kronberger helped him get exposure to go on and play college basketball as well as helping to make him a successful coach.
"Many of the drills he taught I used at the collegiate and professional levels of basketball and now use in my own basketball camps all over the state of Alaska," McCarthy said. "I'm forever grateful for the time he invested in me as a student athlete, and more importantly, for the basketball community in Crook County."
What makes that record especially noteworthy is that both the boys' and girls' programs had won six games or fewer in the year prior to Kronberger taking over the program.
Ball noted that there were several keys to Kronberger's success.
"He played mind games with other coaches," Ball said. "For instance, we were playing Bend one time and he went to the triangle delay with a minute and a half left before halftime. Then he came out in the second half and he never went back to it. We ended up winning the game and I said, 'why didn't you ever go back to it,' and he said, 'it gives the coach something to talk about.'"
Ball added that Kronberger spent countless hours in the gym and scheduled as many as 44 or 45 games for his teams to play in the summer to gain experience.
"I remember Gordon taking the girls basketball team on a consistent basis and switching to the boys side my sophomore year," McCarthy added.
When he took over the boy's program, it was, for lack of a better term, a complete mess. In just two years, he led us to the program's first state berth in decades, but more importantly, he changed the culture of the program and how basketball was viewed in Crook County."
Impact as father, coach
A graduate of Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University) with a bachelor of science in education, Kronberger earned a master's of science at Oregon State University.
While at Crook County, Kronberger also served stints as the head girls soccer coach and as an assistant track coach.
Kroneberger retired from teaching in 2005, but coached at least two more years, leading Yoncolla to a state playoff berth in 2012.
Kronberger leaves behind his wife, Bonnie, to whom he was married for 54 years, and three children, all who have been actively involved in athletics.
"From the time that I was a little girl, Dad installed a love of sports and competing within me," said Kelly Kronberger Lindley, Kronberger's daughter who is currently the athletic director at Northwest Nazarene University. "He consistently challenged me to push beyond what I thought were my limits, but he also was my biggest fan and would offer lots of encouragement. I know that without his coaching I would never have had the confidence or skill set to play basketball in college or pursue a career in college athletics. I am forever grateful for that."
Oldest son Lance, who now lives in Eagle, Alaska, was also impacted by Kronberger's coaching.
"From the time I can remember, my dad has always been a coach," Lance said. "He was always coaching us not only in sports, but in life. He loved the challenge of trying to get the best out of people and he loved seeing people succeed. He was a very intense and motivated man, but the one thing that sticks out about him is that he never compromised his morals or beliefs. How he conducted himself with parents, players, students, and anyone he came into contact with was always with integrity. He never let ambition or the desire to win override doing what was right."
Although he did not play for his dad, youngest son Adam, who is a teacher and administrator at a private school in Salem, was also influenced by his coaching style.
"My dad always felt that teaching was the best profession in the world. As a child of two educators, I vowed I would never become a teacher, yet my dad always spoke into my life, telling me that I would not only make a great teacher, but a great administrator. Decades later I now find myself as a lifelong committed educator and a lead administrator as well. My dad's passion for the field of education and coaching has had a lasting impact on my life."
Kronberger had an impact on countless athletes during his time as a coach and educator, and many of those athletes kept in touch long after Kronberger retired.
"I just remember his laugh," Freeman said. "I remember being in the team room after one of our toughest wins that we would pull off, that laugh and him telling us how proud of us he was. I remember him telling us that, you know, I'm only so hard on you guys because I'm so proud of you and that laugh meant a lot. We worked really hard and there were times that you really hated what you were doing, but because those teams worked so hard together, we stuck together built those relationships. Because of the way that he coached, there are many thing 20 years later that I don't know that I would have persevered and pushed through if it hadn't been for some of those characteristics that he instilled upon us. I can't thank him enough for that."
"I have so many stories, and he was always pushing me to my limits," added former CCHS multisport athlete Kim Ball. "I just want to appreciate his willingness to give of his time. He made himself available whenever kids wanted to be in the gym and tried to create a program that everybody could participate in. He wanted folks to work hard and put in solid efforts, but I also think that he created an expectation of winning, that if you did the work you could expected to win."
Ball added that she learned a lot from Kronberger's coaching and will never forget him as a person or a coach.
"It was just a great time period for Prineville and for girls' basketball," she said. "What he tried to create in us was just mental toughness and not really having any regrets about giving it your best. For me, he was always taping my ankles and pushing me to my limits. Sometimes I didn't think I could give anymore, but I think he taught me to always dig a little deeper. I think he had a big impact on me from the standpoint of leaving it all out there and not really having any regrets about giving it your best."
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