Coach Joe Kinnan, a Manatee icon takes his leave

June 26, 2014 

Joe Kinnan has been a major figure in this community for almost three decades, bringing regional, state and national fame to Manatee High School football.

His Friday announcement of a medical leave of absence -- his second since a five-year pause beginning in 2000 -- brings into question his return to the sidelines.

His fabled coaching career is without question one of the best in Florida history. Five state titles, 290 victories and Florida High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame status cement his legacy.

He led the Hurricanes for 29 years, averaging 10 wins a year -- an incredible figure. Just as remarkable, if not more so, are his 27 district championships, only coming up short two years in his career. Last season, his team earned the No. 1 national ranking in three polls before falling in the state title game.

The circumstances of his leave -- he cited "turmoil and uncertainty that exists in the Manatee County School District" that was impacting his health -- do raise questions about specifics. His public statement did not elaborate, and we respect his personal decision and privacy.

Off the field, his reign as Manatee High's athletic director came into question this year with judgment concerns about his oversight of the school's baseball program and subsequent state fine over policy violations.

The details of that aside, nothing can diminish Kinnan's football prowess and reputation.

A 1963 graduate of Manatee High, Kinnan assumed head coaching duties in 1981 -- winning the school's first official state football championship only two years later, in 1983.

He challenged his players and coaches by scheduling powerhouses across the state and nation -- and bringing a national television audience to games here and elsewhere.

The Hurricanes played on the biggest stages for a high school athletic team thanks to Kinnan.

He engendered reverence in the community, earning him another honor when his name was placed on the grounds at Manatee High School where he gained his fame. Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium is yet another legacy of his accomplishments.

Whether he returns to coach the Hurricanes is up in the air. That would be welcome -- with hopes of another 10-win season to put his career victory mark at 300 or better.

Should this indeed be Coach Kinnan's retirement preview, we wish him good health and good times ahead.

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