Once again, the
game flows back
to Fred Trenkle
A basketball coach returns to the court
By JEFF CORDES
Express Staff Writer
It’s a Yogism, but if you want to talk
basketball with Fred Trenkle, you end up doing a lot of listening.
Basketball coaches are verbal like that.
Coach Fred Trenkle, his players,
homecourt victories and the Twin Falls crowd were inseparable during Trenkle’s
College of Southern Idaho coaching stint. Here, Trenkle (left) and the crowd
react to an exciting play during a Golden Eagle home game in 1985—two years
before Trenkle won a NJCAA national title for CSI. Express photo by Elaine
There’s a lot of down time between games,
and you’ve got to work on the persuasive routine that’s often necessary to sway
So Trenkle talks and talks some more,
while waiting impatiently for somebody, anybody, to make a shot during the
pickup game on the floor. He sprinkles the conversation with references to his
Wesley Moore. Bill Aldinger. Joey Johnson.
Playing huge like it was yesterday.
Take the moth story.
It has the trademark small-town Trenkle
ingredients—an underdog team battling long odds and a reference to the outdoors.
Basketball, the outdoors and his wife Juanita are Trenkle’s true loves.
His work ethic lets him enjoy them all.
In his second year coaching basketball at
Wood River High School, Trenkle guided the 1973-74 Wolverines all the way to the
State A-2 championship game—still Wood River’s only title game appearance.
He had players like Moore, Aldinger, Steve
Thompson, Tim Martin, Gregg Sturtevant and Scott Uhrig, the uncle of one of
Trenkle’s current players, Morgan Uhrig. They won with defense. Once, Trenkle
said it was the best defensive team he’d ever had.
"It was 1974, and Twin Falls was going to
state, too," Trenkle recalls, nearly 30 years later in a basketball lifetime
that is filled with memories of gyms, big and small.
"They had huge articles about the Twin
Falls team in the newspaper, and one little-bitty article about Wood River going
to state with its strong defense. You know, there was one of the greatest lines
I’ve ever seen in that little-bitty article.
"It said, Wood River’s defense is like
being devoured by a moth."
Long for Trenkle.
"You know we’ve got a lot of moths down in
Shoshone this year," he says, suggesting that an infestation from his hometown
might spread north now that Trenkle has returned to his roots as Hailey’s coach.
Can suffocating defense be far behind?
For the record, a highly-favored
Grangeville team withstood Wood River’s swarming moth-like pressure defense to
win the 1974 state title game 59-52 at Boise’s Capital High.
But Grangeville knew it had been in a
battle. Trenkle’s teams don’t always win, but they rarely lose if they use
discipline, get after people and show respect on and off the court.
"You do the best you can with what you
have," says Trenkle. "Sports and life are so alike, it’s unbelievable. Almost
without exception, the hard workers were successful later in life."
Roots are important to Trenkle, who
coached Wood River cage teams to a 100-58 record in a seven-year Hailey stint
ending in 1980. He never had a team as successful as the 1974 squad, but they
always played hard.
Trenkle, 54, started his 30-year coaching
career in the old Wood River junior high school gym back in 1970.
Several years after he left Wood River to
start his college coaching career, Trenkle returned to the Hailey junior high
school and gave a banquet talk to the impressionable youngsters.
He sent four Wooden-like messages that
should be pinned on the locker of every Wood River student.
Remember your roots, he said. Work on
improving communication within your family. Set goals and figure out how to
accomplish them. And make a commitment to excellence.
When Trenkle endured his life’s greatest
disappointment—the nightmarish finale of his Division 1 coaching stint at San
Diego State University from 1994-99—he eventually returned to Wood River Middle
Never afraid of work, he took a part-time
job and methodically worked his way into a full-time teaching and counseling
job. When the Wood River coaching job opened last summer, Trenkle said he was
Only the cogs of bureaucracy prevented
Wood River High School officials from hiring Trenkle on the spot. They made it
official Aug. 26.
So, for newcomers, who is Fred Trenkle?
A hint—although he’s a bit more world
weary these days, Trenkle still enters a gym for practice with the wide-eyed
enthusiasm of a kid dribbling a stolen ball on a fast break.
He’s a teacher of young men whose own
father died when he was six. Trenkle was raised in small-town Shoshone. His
mother encouraged hard work. Playing basketball, hunting and fishing were his
releases as a boy.
He grew fast. As a freshman in high
school, Trenkle was 5-2 and 130 pounds. As a junior, he was 6-3 and 185. As a
senior, his Shoshone basketball team won its conference.
Trenkle ventured 20 miles south and was a
member of the College of Southern Idaho’s first basketball team that went 33-4
for coach Eddie Sutton in 1967. He attended Idaho State University in Pocatello
on a basketball scholarship and earned a degree in history and physical
His first coaching job was at Wood River,
but Trenkle was ambitious.
After Wood River’s second-place finish at
state basketball in 1974, Trenkle took a one-year leave of absence and worked as
a graduate assistant for coach Murray Satterfield at the College of Idaho in
He started developing his considerable
talent for game analysis and scouting while on sabbatical. Trenkle was a scout
for CSI coach Boyd Grant’s 34-1 national championship team of 1976—CSI’s first
On two occasions in the late 1970s,
Indiana University coach Bobby Knight promised Trenkle a one-year assistant
stipend at the four-year school. Twice Knight reneged.
Trenkle, who played a lot of Rec League
basketball at the tiny Ketchum gym back then, left Wood River in 1980 and took a
three-year assistant coaching job under his former coach Sutton at the
University of Arkansas.
He and Juanita and their growing family of
four hardly made enough money to live on. When he returned to Idaho, Trenkle
made extra money by hunting coyotes and cashing in on prices of $50 to $80 per
Trenkle wasn’t jobless for long.
Returning to his roots, he became the most
successful coach in CSI history, with a remarkable 329-36 record in 10 Golden
Eagle seasons from 1984-93. The Twin Falls program hasn’t been the same since he
Trenkle insisted on victory and had
players who delivered.
He had eight 30-win seasons and a record
137-game home win streak ending in 1992. He won eight regional championships and
one national NJCAA title, in 1987, when his 37-1 CSI team led by 6-4 Joey
Johnson (19.5 ppg) beat Midland, Texas 69-68. He graduated his players.
Trenkle, his sights set on a Division 1
college coaching job, resigned at CSI in 1993 after completing a 36-2 campaign.
His three sons, Swede, Eddie and Brady,
successfully followed Trenkle’s large footsteps on the basketball court.
In 1994, in fact, Brady Trenkle was a
senior when Twin Falls High School—aiming for its first state title in 20
years—dropped a heartbreaking 57-54 overtime state championship game to
defending champ Borah (24-2).
Fred Trenkle did a lot of the scouting and
preparation work for that Twin Falls state runner-up team and was proud that
Brady made second-team All-State as a 6-1 guard.
Nothing has come easy for the Trenkles,
though. While the Twin Falls basketball team was succeeding on the court,
Trenkle was having less success latching onto a college job. It became
Finally, on the suggestion of a friend,
Ketchum pharmacist Don Leonard, Trenkle sent his application to San Diego State.
In May 1994, he signed a multi-year contract for $72,000 a year.
With their children through school, Fred
and Juanita took the big Division 1 coaching step and went off to San Diego
State in 1994 for what became a bittersweet five-year stint.
There were some high moments, but the low
points were more frequent for a coach who during his San Diego State tenure was
inducted into the National Junior College Athletic Hall of Fame for his CSI
The competition was fierce in the Western
Athletic Coinference, and Trenkle’s operating budget was small.
He found out that his contract wasn’t
being renewed on television. He was asked to resign during the 1998-99 season,
when the Aztecs were 2-20—after a 48-point loss at Utah.
"I found out loyalty doesn’t run two
ways," Trenkle was quoted as saying at the time.
For the first time in his life, he hadn’t
won. His Aztecs had only one winning season, 15-14 in 1996. His coaching record
was 53-81 when he resigned.
CSI helped its coaching legend Trenkle
mend his wounds by choosing him as a member of its inaugural CSI Hall of Fame in
Then the junior college turned around two
years later and shot down Trenkle, a finalist for the open CSI job, in favor of
a younger man.
Trenkle swallowed his pride and took
substitute teaching jobs in Kimberly and Twin Falls. He continued to work during
the summers hauling fuel for helicopters. He and Juanita kept their cabin north
He acknowledges he won’t be coaching at
Wood River forever, but he’s grateful for the opportunity to get back into the
game with an excellent coaching staff this winter.
Trenkle says, "The coaching staff is one
of the better ones I’ve had. Jim (Boatwright) and I have similar philosophies,
and John (Radford) will do a good job with the juniors.
"The future? I’ll try to help solidify
Wood River and hopefully get some of the attitudes right. Then someone else can
take over," he said, not completely ruling out a return to the junior college or
college coaching game.
"Work ethic is a big thing. I wonder how
many of the kids have had to work hard before they get to the basketball court.
In fact, I’ve had a lot of great teams that haven’t known how to work hard. But
we’ll work hard. I want them getting after somebody."
Trenkle’s teams have always done the dirty
work first and scored later.
He says, "I’d like to think that we’re not
going to have a lot of long nights. I’d like to think we’re not going to quit.
Hopefully we can play close to the bone and get to where we can make our free
"Somewhere you’ve got to make a stand."
As always Fred Trenkle is talking about
basketball, but he’s also talking about life.
"Play basketball!" he yells to his players
when they were doing things too mechanically during a drill last week. "This is
basketball, it isn’t TV. Let’s get some flow to this!"
After storming around a bit and substituting himself into the action, for proper
effect, he reluctantly comes back and sits briefly on a bench.
"You always want to be the underdog. We’re going to get better and better.
"We might have 10 wins.
"We might have four.
"But I can tell you one thing—we’re going
to be well coached!"