BY JIM MISUNAS
ST. JOHN – St. John basketball coach Clint Kinnamon played his cards perfectly and they came up Aces – Wichita East Blue Aces.
Kinnamon ended a 19-year coaching stint at St. John Friday by accepting the head basketball position at Wichita East.
“I have a ton of fond memories. It was difficult to leave,” Kinnamon said. “But I needed a change and I got a new challenge. St. John will always have a very special place in my heart.”
Kinnamon endured mixed emotions when people heard he was leaving St. John.
“It’s been a tough emotional day because of all the former players who’ve reached out,” he said. “The outpouring of thanks and gratitude for what players said I did for them is extremely humbling.”
Kinnamon had sentimental feelings when he thought about his time at St. John. St. John played a unselfish style that emphasized passing and teamwork. Kinnamon's secret weapon was playing a variety of defenses that focused on key scorers and kept opposing teams guessing.
“Thank you St. John for the past 19 years,” he said. “Much love and appreciation to all of you. Thank you to all the current and former players, managers, band, cheerleaders, fans, administration, board of education, and supporters who made my stay in St. John very special.”
Kinnamon guided St. John to four state basketball championships (2007, 2013, 2014, 2015) and three runner-up finishes (2008, 2017, 2019) in 11 state appearances. The Tigers finished with a 23-6 state tournament record under Kinnamon, who won 10 of 11 first-round games.
Kinnamon’s quest for a fifth state title was halted when the Kansas State High School Association stopped the 2020 state tournament because of fear about the coronavirus.
“I really liked our chances. We would’ve had an opportunity to win a state title this year,” Kinnamon said. “But we would’ve had to beat two good basketball teams.”
Winning the 2014 state championship 71-58 over Plainville is Kinnamon’s favorite title.
“My favorite state title was 2014 because my sons Cade and Cole started on that team,” he said. “As a coach, it doesn’t get any better.”
Two memorable game-winning moments stand out.
# Cole Kinnamon, Kinnamon’s son, drilled a 40-foot 3-pointer against a trio of defenders to end a six-overtime 52-51 semifinal victory over Lawrence Seabury in 2017. Salina Sacred Heart downed the Tigers 59-51 in the 2A championship game.
# The 2006-2007 state champion Tigers upset 6A third-place finisher Wichita North on a double-pump game-winner by 5-foot-4 Tyler Meyer at the St. John Midwinter Classic. It marked Kinnamon's first state coaching title.
St. John posted a boys state record 63-game winning streak from 2013 to 2016. The Tigers 25-1 state championship was followed by back-to-back 26-0 state championship teams. A four-game winning streak in 2016 was ended by Central Plains, which won state titles in 2018 and 2019.
Kinnamon earned four Kansas Basketball Coach of the Year honors. Kinnamon coached Claflin’s Jackie Stiles, the state’s all-time girls leading scorer; and Dean Wade, a three-time state basketball champion.
“I was fortunate to coach two players who had special ability,” Kinnamon said.
Kinnamon said he knows little about Wichita East’s program, other than its historical success of eight state basketball titles.
“My primary goal is to establish a sense of family and ownership that we created at St. John,” he said. “I’d love that players want to stay in touch 10 years down the road. That’s something I’d like Wichita East’s players to experience.”
Kinnamon likes the fact basketball success is very important at Wichita East.
“I’ve heard we’ve got a good returning group that I’ll be excited to coach,” Kinnamon said. “There is a lot of quickness and athleticism in the Wichita City League. I’ll learn and see what our guys can do on the basketball court and figure out things on the run.”
Kinnamon will also teach physical education and coach boys golf. He led St. John to two golf state championships (2007, 2009) when Tim Spare won medalist honors (2009) and placed runner-up (2007).
Wichita East owns a proud athletic tradition.
“Wichita East is excited to add coach Kinnamon to the Blue Ace family,” said Sara Richardson, Wichita East principal. “Clint brings a competitive mindset and nearly three decades of experience to the rich tradition of Wichita’s original high school, the home of champions.”