Mr. Barnett taught and coached at Sunny Hills for many decades, and he was well known on campus. He coached B and C football, maybe basketball, track and field, where he was the head coach, and Driver Education. He was a generalist rather than a specialist, and the Crestview and Freeway Leagues of the 1960s were sharply competitive. The coach developed many good athletes and some superb ones.
He was a handsome man with an athletic build, prematurely silver hair, piercing blue eyes, and the manner of a rugged Westerner. He looked somewhat like the Marlboro Man, without the cigarettes and ten gallon hat, and he was always cool, with little expression on his face most of the time.
He was a private man, not given to joking around or frivolity, and in fact, shy. He was close to some of his athletes and encouraged them in enthusiastic ways. Some of his track athletes recall the excited slang Coach used at the crucial moment of their competition. “Hit that baby! Just hit that baby!” for long jumpers. (Translation: “Jump a long way! Achieve your personal best!”)
We can all remember Coach Barnett walking across campus, usually in a gray Sunny Hills T-shirt, work pants or often shorts. Of course, many of the girls had crushes on him, and some of the boys emulated his cool manner. His sense of humor was wry.
He grew up in the blazing hot border town of Bisbee, Arizona, where he was a local athletic hero. When he ended his career and retired, he returned to live and die in his hometown.
I remember Tom Goodhope, ’67 and probably some of Coach Barnett’s other athletes were able to talk to him on the phone around 2003. We’re grateful they could, to reassure Coach that they appreciated him through life.
Garner Barnett was another teacher-coach who made his mark at our high school in the early days and had a significant influence on our students and school culture. They ought to name something for him, at least a pole vault pit! (Everything else that can be named for people is taken up, it seems.)
We salute his memory with gratitude and affection.