At the end of the COVID-shortened football season of 2021, Steve Turner figured it was time to end a coaching career that spanned four decades and included state championships at Cascade and Mountain View.
He enjoyed his three seasons of coaching at North Medford, but the five-hour round trip to Medford from his home in Cottage Grove – where he and his wife Mary began settling into a ranch in February of 2021 – proved taxing.
“I was going to Medford and back in a day,” said Turner, who also rented an apartment in Medford during that period. “I'd move stuff, get back to go to practice, and come home that night.”
Less than two years after announcing his retirement, though, Turner has decided to return to the game. This week he was announced as the new coach at 4A Cottage Grove, a six-mile drive from his home.
“There were certain things about football that I missed,” Turner said. “It's a pretty good opportunity. It's a 15-minute ride. I can be home every night.”
Turner compiled a 121-89 record in 21 seasons as a head coach at Rainier (1985-87), Crook County (1998-2004), Mountain View (2008-11), Cascade (2012-15) and North Medford (2018-20). He led Mountain View to a 5A title in 2011 and Cascade to a 4A championship in 2015.
His track record held strong appeal for Cottage Grove, which has fallen on hard times in recent seasons. The Lions, state runners-up in 2016 and state champions in 2017, have lost 26 of 27 games in the last four seasons. They will enter next season on a 14-game losing streak.
“Cottage Grove is not far removed from recent success at the state championship level,” athletic director Garrett Bridgens said. “We want to get our program back to a place of prominence, and I believe Coach Turner is the person who can get us there.”
Turner replaces Joe Polamalu, who coached the team the last three seasons. He is tasked with rebuilding a program that had 14 seniors and three juniors on the roster last season.
Turner has had success running the wing-T, I-formation and spread offense during his career. At North Medford, he ran primarily a spread offense in posting records of 3-7, 8-3 and 4-2.
Turner, 68, said he spent the last two seasons watching college and high school games.
“I really got into watching college football,” he said. “I see what they're doing, and I go down and put it on paper and say, 'OK, how could I make this work?' I never really got away from it. You miss that, but the parts you really miss are interacting with the kids.”
Tending to his home has kept Turner busy. He cares for horses, farms and manages trails. He said that he and Mary moved 150 bales of hay from a field to his barn in one weekend.
“I've got quite a few acres here,” said Turner, who underwent a hip replacement in 2021. “It's a lot of work. It took me about two years to get it to a point where all I need to do is work in the mornings. I have all the afternoons off. I take care of the animals in the morning, and do my chores, and from one o'clock on, what do I do?”
The last two years marked the first time he wasn't a part of a football team since 1967. After a difficult finish to his tenure at North Medford – “that pandemic just absolutely kicked my butt,” he said – he was ready to get back in the game.
“It's something I've always done,” he said. “And I'm still young. Why can't I do things that I still enjoy? I can only golf so much.”
Turner now must put together a coaching staff.
“It's been kind of a whirlwind in the last four or five days,” he said. “I've contacted some people.”
Turner adds to an outstanding group of veteran coaches in 4A Special District 3 that includes Marist Catholic's Frank Geske, Stayton's Randy Nyquist and Cascade's Shane Hedrick. After leaving Cascade, Turner was the line coach at Marist Catholic for two seasons.
“There are some pretty good coaches in this league,” Turner said. “I'm really good friends with Frank, Randy and Shane, so it'll be good to see those guys on Friday nights.”
Jones leaves Franklin for Westview
Westview has filled its head coaching vacancy with Jamal Jones, who coached Franklin last season.
Jones, 4-4 in his lone season with the Lightning, said he desired to coach closer to his home in Washington County.
“It's a big high school with big expectations,” said Jones, a police officer in Hillsboro. “I think anytime that kind of opportunity opens up – especially in Oregon, where they don't open that often – you've got to take a chance on a school like that.
“For me, it was important to look at something long-term, look at something I can build for years to come. And Westview presented that opportunity for me and my family.”
Jones, who played at Humboldt State, went 30-22 with two league titles in five seasons as the coach at Arcata (Calif.). He accepted the Franklin position on short notice last year due to Jesse Thompson's late resignation. The team started 4-0 before losing its final four games.
“I enjoyed my time at Franklin, but I think they deserve someone that's in that community that is invested in that community, and can be accessible,” Jones said. “And I just didn't think that I offered that long-term.”
He takes over at Westview for Ryan Atkinson, who resigned after leading the Wildcats to an 8-5 record and a title in the inaugural 6A Columbia Cup last season.
Jones said he was a finalist for Mountainside's head coaching position this month before the school hired Keanon Lowe.
Minyard plots new course
Jay Minyard has resigned as the coach at Sprague to become the athletic director at South Albany, according to Mark Gilman's Substack page.
“I thought I might end up as an athletic coordinator at the end of my career,” Minyard told Gilman. “But thought I was still a few years away.”
Minyard went 70-40 in 11 seasons at Sprague, leading the Olympians to the 6A quarterfinals in 2012 and 2016. He is returning to South Albany, where he went 22-10 in three seasons (1998-2000) in his first head coaching job.
Minyard, who also coached at North Salem (2001-03) and McKay (2005-11), compiled a 126-114 record in 25 seasons.
“It’s been awesome, and I have been a little leery about giving that up, because I really do love it,” Minyard said. “At this point in my career, I feel like I need a change and some different challenges.”