By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Three things were on Ron Richards’ mind as he counted down his final days as McNary High School’s athletic director.
“The community of Keizer is outstanding in its support for academics and athletics,” Richards said looking back at the last seven years.
“The staff at McNary High School is all about kids, very student centered and a pretty cohesive staff and the student athletes here are outstanding.”
Richards moved to Oregon in 2001 when he retired from coaching college football at the University of Montana. After nine years as the athletic director at McKay, Richards took the same position at McNary in 2010.
“McNary was so similar to the high school that I began at,” Richards said.
“I began at a high school in Butte, Mont. of about 2,000 students at that time and a single high school in a single town, great athletic success, great academic success. A friend of mine (Mike Maghan) retired and I thought that would be a great place to end my career in a place similar to the one that I started.”
Richards strived to be the kind of athletic director that he would want as a coach.
“Basically that’s a person that works hard to meet all of the needs for each of the sports but pretty much stays off of day-to-day activities in any sport,” Richards said.
“My model has been I hire great head coaches, the expectation is they hire great assistants and I monitor through the head coach.”
One of Richards’ first actions was forming a booster club.
“I put a call out that we needed one. The community stepped up and it’s been really supportive of McNary athletics since that time,” Richards said.
While the McNary Athletic Booster Club wanted to immediately tackle the turf field, Richards had a different project at the top of his wish list.
“The project in my mind was too big so I asked the booster club, we had a training room that was stuck down in the weight room, we were trying to treat our athletes and we were doing it in a cubby hole in the middle of the weight room,” Richards said. “That just didn’t work. We needed a first class training room and I wanted the first project to be doing something to upgrade our training facilities. Community, booster club, they jumped behind it. We repurposed an area. That then led me to believe that we were maybe ready to take on a bigger project.”
Next came the $1-million turf field project.
“We had a group get together, Bob Zielinski and Ted Anagnos, they were really behind the project and sat down with Rhonda Brattain and many others to plan how this would happened,” Richards said.
“They believed they could do it. I then contacted the (Salem-Keizer) district to find out all the procedures that we would have to do and the timelines that we needed in order for that to happen. Then a number of us started figuring out what kind of turf and going around to different places.
“Booster club president Danielle Bethell was a real integral part in the ending of that. She came in midstream as we were doing it and she was able to put the finishing touches on the financing that we needed in order to complete the project.”
The booster club continued that momentum into raising $20,000 to paint and resurface the gym floor as well as building new dugouts on the softball field.
“The booster club, they have been such an ally,” Richards said. “They created an allegiance between the community and McNary High School. Many of the things that I’ve done in my tenure here would never have happened without the booster club and all of the volunteers. Keizer is amazing.”
Richards has been rewarded mostly by the effort the kids give in all sports on the field and in the classroom.
The Celtics had 13 sports teams compete at the state level during the 2016-17 school year.
Academically, the softball team, which advanced to the state quarterfinals, tied for second in 6A with a 3.6 GPA. Of all the 6A boys basketball teams, McNary had the top GPA (3.7).
Three of its five starters were valedictorians. The cheerleading team had a 3.85, which was the best of any classification.
Richards decided to retire in the fall of 2016.
“It’s time for some new people,” Richards said. “It’s time for a little different vision. My wife retired a year ago and she’s enjoying her retirement and I’m a little envious.”
Richards is looking forward to spending more time with his grandson in Colorado, fishing and playing more golf.
He’s also taken a position at Ohio University, where he’ll teach one online class per semester in the master’s program for interscholastic athletic administrators.