The Wil Jenny Restaurant in south Overland Park hosted a retirement reception Wednesday evening for long-time Johnson County high school official and commissioner Mike Etnire.
A plethora of officials, high school coaches and administrators were in attendance to honor the 67-year-old Leawood resident.
Lenexa resident and official Dick Shoults said of Etnire: “He is probably the most influential supervisor of officials in the state of Kansas in the last 35 years. The benefit of this is the tens of thousands of high school athletes.”
Olathe resident Bill McDonald, who has been a head baseball coach for 40 years with 28 at SM South and the last 12 at Blue Valley West, also was a sub-varsity basketball official for Etnire.
“Mike has been at the center of growth of athletics in Johnson County,” he said. “As the population growth took place, Mike prepared and trained the officials to meet the needs of all the various sports.
“His greatest gift is that he cared about the players that he officiated. The games were important to him, so he made it important to the officials to be on time, dress properly and get the calls right. I respect Mike so much for what given to all of us as officials and coaches.”
Etnire, a Shawnee Mission East and University of Kansas graduate started umpiring in the Johnson County 3&2 program in 1975 and served as the program’s umpire-in-chief for many years before retiring five years ago.
In 1980, after Randy St. Clair resigned as Sunflower League commissioner, Etnire got that job. He became East Kansas League commissioner in 1985 and was the Kaw Valley League commissioner for the past five years.
A commissioner assigns officials on the varsity and sub-varsity levels in football, volleyball, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball and baseball.
Joe Gilhaus, 16-year SM South principal, said, “He officiated my basketball and baseball games when I played at SM North. I have always enjoyed Mike as a person. He is a top notch person and official.”
Rick Zych was boys basketball coach at Bishop Miege for 16 years and has been the coach at Park Hill South for the past two years.
“He was great for the game of basketball and kids,” he said. “He has had a big influence on a lot of young officials.”
Terry Kenny of Overland Park has been officiating in football, basketball and baseball for the past 20 years.
“He’s one of the nicest people I’ve known,” he said. “I learned from his demeanor on the court. I learned from him how he handled situations. I owe Mike a lot.”
SM North graduate Dean Pearce worked with Etnire in baseball for 47 years. He also worked in basketball for 37 years and 10 years in football for Etnire.
“He’s been a friend and mentor with me in good times and bad times,” he said. “He has always been supportive and a good friend.”
Etnire began cutting back on his officiating in recent years, but didn’t sound like a man who was quite ready to reach the end of the striped-shirt line.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.
And what has changed in his years as an official and commissioner?
“Parents have gotten worse about their kids,” he said. “Kids are bigger, stronger and faster.”