Bob Lutz: Wichita coaching legend reaches hall of fame
Chuck Porter won 143 games as a high school football coach, which doesn’t get him on any winningest coach lists.
But stop and consider that three of those wins were in state championship games — one at Bishop Carroll in 1978 and two at East in 1982 and 1983. Consider, too, that Porter went to Carroll after the Eagles went 1-8 in 1975 and two seasons later had his team in the 5A title game a year before winning it.
And that at East, Porter took over a Blue Aces program with one winning season in the previous 12. But East was 7-4 and in a state semifinal playoff game during Porter’s first season, then 10-2 and in the championship game in his second before winning back-to-back 6A titles.
Oh, by the way, since Porter left East after the 1983 season to become an assistant at Wichita State, the Blue Aces have had six winning seasons, but have never won more than six games in a season.
And, finally, consider one last fact: From 1969 through 1975, when Porter was Ed Kriwiel’s right-hand man at Kapaun Mount Carmel, the Crusaders won four state titles and, after a rough first season for Kriwiel and the Crusaders, was a part of a team that was 61-10 those next six seasons.
Porter, in other words, was a great football coach. And on Friday night between the girls and boys basketball games at Buhler, where Porter spent the last 13 years of his coaching career before retiring in 1999, he’ll be inducted into the Kansas State High School Activities Association Hall of Fame.
“It’s really neat,” Porter said Wednesday morning before heading out the door to play golf. “And very humbling, for goodness sakes. I’m just very thankful for the career and for all those people I had the privilege of working with, both kids and adults.”
Porter, 70, has lived in Buhler since he started coaching football there. His wife, Schari, runs a day-care center.
“She considers it her ministry in life,” Porter said. “And it’s worked out fine because I get to live right here in Buhler, Kan., the greatest place in the world in my opinion.”
Porter grew up in Viola, southwest of Wichita, and played sports at the high school, long since gone. He was a fifth-grader, he said, when he decided for sure that he wanted to coach. And he got his first job when he was finishing up his degree at Wichita State, coaching sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in football, basketball and track at St. Patrick’s.
“It was great, more fun than you could ever imagine,” Porter said. “And we won everything.”
He joined the staff at Kapaun in 1967 and suffered through 3-5-1 and 3-6 seasons. Kriwiel took over at Kapaun in 1969, having just been fired after going 0-10 in his one season as Wichita State’s coach. Already a legendary high school coach from his years at West, Kriwiel led Kapaun to nine state titles and 204 wins in 22 seasons.
And tremendously influence Porter, who remembers watching Kriwiel quarterback the University of Wichita in the late 1940s.
“I remember sitting on the hill at the south end of Veterans Stadium,” Porter said. “And when I was in junior high, I watched Ed officiate some basketball games in the winter time.”
The two would later become synonymous for Kapaun’s success. Kriwiel, who died in 2007 at 81, was the mastermind of the offense; Porter his trusted defensive wunderkind.
“I was in awe of Ed when he first came aboard at Kapaun, no question about it,” Porter said. “But we struck it off real well.”
The two were frequent golfing partners and as one who spent a lot of time around both guys in those days, I thought they had many of the same mannerisms and inflections with their voices.
“If you’re comparing me to Ed Kriwiel, I take that as a great compliment,” Porter said. “I patterned my philosophy of coaching and the way we did things after him. Some coaches would never say that, their egos would get in the way. But not mine.”
Porter finally felt like he was ready to go off on his own when he went to Carroll, and the success was immediate. He was eager to give East a try, too. And the Aces have never had years like they had with Porter.
His last big move was to join new coach Ron Chismar’s staff at Wichita State in 1984. But the Shockers were 8-25 and the football program was disbanded after the 1986 season, leaving Porter and many others in the wake.
“I’ve often thought about my decision to go to Wichita State,” Porter said. “Did I make a mistake in leaving East High because I think we would have kept that program alive? No, it wasn’t a mistake. It was something I felt like I needed to do and I would have been happy to stay at Wichita State as a good, loyal assistant and watch that program grow. But it didn’t work out that way.”
Porter instead moved to Buhler, where he coached for 13 years and took the Crusaders to the 5A title game in 1990, when they lost to Pittsburg 14-10. His record with the Crusaders was 76-48.
“If we had been a little more successful here at Buhler, that would have been the frosting on the cake,” Porter said. “We did not accomplish what I wanted to accomplish.”
Porter always set his sights high. And more often than not, he didn’t fall short.