THE FRONT ROW with MARK NELKE: Technically speaking — and other ref tales (Part 1)

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Back in the 1990s, the “Winger Stomp” bordered on legendary.

First in his two years coaching boys basketball at his alma mater, Coeur d’Alene High, then when he started the program at Lake City in 1994.

Winger explained the origin.

“I spent a lot of time with Fitz (Dan Fitzgerald) when I was at Gonzaga (as a student), when my brother (Mike) was playing there, I watched a lot of practices,” Winger recalled. “And he (Fitz) did that a lot. And I could never whistle. So to get somebody’s attention, in a loud gym ... so I started doing that (stomp) to get attention, to call out a play.”

Winger, still coaching and now in his second stint as Lake City boys coach, says he doesn’t do the “Winger Stomp” nearly as much now.

“No, too old,” he explained.

BUT BACK in the 2002 season, he received a special request.

“Darren Malm, down in District 2, he’s probably my favorite ref, works well with players, coaches and fans,” Winger recalled. “It was our team that finished second at state (2002), we’re playing Clarkston, and Clarkston used the Idaho refs, we were really good and Clarkston was down a little bit. He (Malm) was doing big-time women’s games, so I think he wasn’t going to do much high school anymore.”

During the pregame, when the officials meet with the coaches to address any concerns and/or chew the fat, Malm said to Winger, “I want a Winger Stomp tonight.”

“I said, ‘What do you mean?’

“He said, “You can’t whistle, so you stomp your foot to get attention, or whatever. I like that. I want to see that tonight.’

“Well, Darren, I don’t really plan that,” Winger replied.

“So we’re playing, and we’re winning comfortably and he’s running by and he says ‘I told you I wanted a stomp.’

‘Just do it at me.’

“I’m not gonna do that,” Winger thought.

“So I just laughed it off.

“He ran by again and said, ‘I’m going to be disappointed if I don’t get a stomp.’

“So there was some call and I slapped my foot on the ground ... ‘C’mon, Darren.’

“He just looked over and winked at me and gave me a thumbs-up.”

BILL DOWLING, recalled Duane Ward, who served two stints each as Sandpoint High boys and girls basketball coach, “was an excellent official, and he didn’t let things bother him.”

Dowling was one of the area’s top refs back in the 1980s, when Ward was coaching the Bulldog boys.

“But, if you chipped long enough he’d come over,” Ward recalled. “And I remember to this day, he would say, ‘Coach, my bucket’s full.’ And that’s all he had to say, and I knew that I better keep my mouth shut and not say any more, because if I did, he was going to nail me. That was his way of saying, ‘Enough.’”

In the late 1990s, when Ward was in his first stint coaching the Sandpoint girls, he got thrown out of a game — which seemed a shock at the time to the Sandpoint fans, as “Woody” was not really one to harp on the officiating.

Ward explained:

“My assistant coach got a technical, and for some reason there was a little animosity going on between the referee and my assistant,” he said. “Then I got a technical. And in those days, if you got two technicals ... so I had one and he had one, and then he got another one, and that one went against me, and if you had two, you were out of the game.”

Was that the only time you got tossed from a game, Ward was asked.

“No, I got thrown out at North Central High in Spokane (in the 1969-70 season),” he recalled. “But I earned that one; I wanted that one. I’d had enough, and I wanted it, and they gave it to me and that was it.”

“But I did get to open the door (to the locker room) and watch (the rest of the game),” Ward said.

BACK IN the day, the coaches helped pull out the bleachers at the old Post Falls High School (now the middle school) before games, recalled Mike Curtis, who was an assistant girls basketball coach for one season under Ron Worley, then took over as head coach in 1984 and guided the Trojans for 10 seasons.

“We were pulling out the bleachers, and I ripped my pants, all the way from the bottom of the zipper all the way to the belt loop in the back,” Curtis said.

“So I got no pants.

“I panicked, and went into my office, and then I went into the women’s P.E. office where the officials dressed, and there was a trench coat. So I put that trench coat on, and about halfway through the first quarter, George Emmett (one of the officials) runs by and says, ‘Hey Mike, I have a coat just like that.’

“I’m sure you do, George,” Curtis replied. “It’s yours.”

“He (Emmett) about had to quit, he was laughing so damn hard.”

JOHN DRAGER, as the story goes, used to kick the wooden bleachers at Mullan when he was upset over an official’s call. When they replaced the bleachers in the Mullan Pavilion a decade or so ago, school officials presented Drager with the piece of the bleacher that had met his foot all those times.

“Don Rinaldi refereed for years,” recalled Drager, who was coaching Mullan’s boys at the time. “We were playing Wallace at Wallace, and we’d had a meeting about two nights before the game, coaches and officials, and one of the things they covered was, on defense, you can’t have your hands on a guy. That’s a foul.

“Well, Wallace has got their hands all over us, and I said, ‘They’ve got their hands on us.’

“Don goes, ‘Sit down.’

“Then he gives me a technical foul.

“I said ‘Don, we just went through this two nights ago — you can’t have your hands on a guy.’

“Rinaldi says, ‘I missed that meeting.’”

There will be more referee stories in the coming weeks.

COACHES: If you are a current or former basketball coach in North Idaho, and have stories you’d like to share of crazy bus trips, humorous encounters with referees or bizarre occurences during games, feel free to email me at

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at Follow him on Twitter@CdAPressSports.

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