Rusty Newman just completed his 16th year as the Shawnee Mission district director of student services and athletics. And this will be his last year working in Johnson County after turning the Shawnee Mission District down twice for a teaching job back in 1972 before finally accepting.
Newman, a St. Louis native, played baseball at Normandy High School and then was a pitcher at Central Missouri State.
“I had just completed my reserve stint in the Army and was coaching at CMSU,” he said. “I interviewed on campus with several school districts. Hickman Mills High School was brand new.
“I was supposedly going to be the baseball coach and PE teacher. SM called and offered me a job. I turned it down. They actually called me again and I turned it down.”
So how did he end up as PE teacher at Indian Creek Junior High School?
“I went to two weeks Army summer camp, and when I returned, the job at Hickman Mills fell through,” he said. “A stroke of luck. I received a call from SM the next day, and they offered me the job one more time. I jumped at it.”
Newman helped Bill McDonald start the baseball program at SM South in 1974 and in 1976 became the head baseball coach at SM East. He was the Lancers’ coach for 10 years, winning the state title in 1984.
“I remember the kids and their parents,” he said. “The kids really wanted to learn baseball and wanted to be successful. The state team of 1984 will always be special. I really believe we began a great baseball tradition at East.”
Newman then went into administration.
He was the assistant principal and athletic director at Blue Valley North for six years and spent four years as associate principal at SM Northwest.
Then came the opportunity for his dream job.
“It was always my dream job, the only job I really wanted,” he said. “When Jack Hammig retired, I applied. Dr. Dave Stewart believed in me and really was the catalyst of me getting the job.”
Newman accomplished a great deal in 16 years in the job.
“Without question, it is the overall improvement of the athletic facilities in SM,” Newman said. “We were able to improve all the high school practice facilities, build a softball and baseball complex. We improved the soccer complex and rebuilt (SM) North Stadium, plus we added new gyms, wrestling rooms and weight rooms in the high schools. We were also one of the first districts to install synthetic turf fields.”
Present Blue Valley West baseball coach Bill McDonald started the baseball program at SM South, and Newman was his assistant for the first two years. McDonald was the coach for 28 years before moving to BV West in 2001.
“I can never thank him enough for helping me start the baseball program at South,” McDonald said. “Rusty was the smartest and best-prepared coach I have ever coached against. As the (SM) District AD, he cared a great deal about the district hiring the best coaches and building facilities that would allow the district to compete.
“He cared about the student athletes a great deal. He loved to see players compete.”