Former Journal sports editor recalls ‘The Old Coach’

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Former Journal sports editor recalls ‘The Old Coach’

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Jack Gordon, of WPFB radio in Middletown, the longtime radio voice of Middletown High School football and basketball, is pictured at Wade E. Miller Gym in Middletown in 2009. Gordon died Saturday, Jan. 28, at the age of 85. STAFF FILE/2009
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  • A little bark, but all heart was Jack Gordon.

I don’t remember the first time I met Jack Gordon. But I do recall the first time he gave me hell.

Shortly after college, I got a job in Middletown to be The Journal’s sports editor. I didn’t know anything about Middletown. I didn’t know anyone in Middletown, either.

But covering the Middies, I soon got to know “The Old Coach.”

A few weeks on the job, Fenwick’s boys basketball team was making a deep run into the playoffs. The Coach was calling Fenwick’s next playoff game at UD Arena for WPFB radio, and I was covering it for The Journal. So he invited me to ride with him.

The Coach had this saying back when he coached the Middies: “The bus leaves on time!” And boy, did he mean it. Despite being on schedule to be minutes early to meet him, The Coach preemptively called, growling, “You’re late! We’re leaving without you!”

Of course, he waited. Because with The Coach, no matter how tough he tried to be, his softer side usually won out.

It wasn’t long before The Coach and his wife, Kiki Demetrion, welcomed me into their family. Kiki became my godmother when I was chrismated at Middletown’s Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church. The Coach, meanwhile, made sure that I moved out of my stuffy one-bedroom apartment into the vacant house he owned on Holly Avenue. And though I feigned protest, he set the rent five times lower than it should’ve been.

Of course, if the check arrived a day late, he gave me a hard time. But that was The Coach. A little bark. But a lot of heart.

I left Middletown after a couple of years, but never lost touch with Kiki and The Coach. And because I married an Ohio gal, we’d stop by Middletown to see them whenever we’d visit her parents. The Coach was always thrilled to see us. And before we left, he’d always hug me and my wife, defying that so-called rugged reputation.

These last few years, The Coach’s health had begun to deteriorate. “I’m too old,” he would grumble. But this past Christmas, Kiki and The Coach got to meet our then-six-month old daughter, Dorothy. He had a blast holding her, as she kept grabbing at the chain he wore around his neck.

A couple days later, I spoke to The Coach for the final time. Out of the blue, he called, on his own, simply to tell me how much he enjoyed seeing us again. And how happy it made him to finally meet Dorothy.

That was The Old Coach.

Jake Trotter was sports editor at The Middletown Journal from 2005-06. He is a college football writer for ESPN.com

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