It was a pleasure to have known Gene Parker.
Until his sudden death Sunday at age 68, Parker always was a true gentleman.
In May 1986, upon the occasion of his impending retirement after 31 years as teacher and coach at City College, it was an enjoyable assignment to write about Parker in a story headlined, "Respect is his calling card."
Parker talked then about his coaching philosophy: "There's no secret formula," he said. "Be yourself. Kids respect you more when you don't act like you're king of the hill. Treat them with respect, and they will return it."
Even since his retirement, Parker had continued to coach cross country, girls basketball and baseball at City. He always had a wave and a smile, or a kind word for everyone he met. And over the years, he touched the lives of thousands of students and athletes.
Veteran basketball referee Jerry Phipps, who formerly coached basketball at City, said of Parker in 1984: "He's a taskmaster without a lot of shouting. A disciplinarian without being hateful or spiteful. Gene Parker doesn't coach for Gene Parker's ego. He coaches for the kids and the betterment of the game."
Funeral arrangements for Parker remain incomplete.
* When Dulaney meets unbeaten Centennial for the state Class 3A-4A girls soccer championship Saturday at Arundel (1 p.m.), look for Courtney McClelland to be in goal.
The Dulaney senior normally is an all-county striker, yet in four seasons she has played every position but sweeper back for coach Evey Quinn.
"Courtney can play anywhere and be effective," said Quinn, who decided two weeks ago that Dulaney's best chance for a trip to the state finals would be to juggle the lineup. That involved McClelland shifting into the goal and her sister, sophomore Whitney McClelland, moving to midfield. Quinn also promoted three players from the junior varsity, starting two of them, Betsy Jones and Abby Bausman, on the front line along with veteran Aimee Vaughan.
The Lions promptly lost the Baltimore County championship to Loch Raven, 3-2.
"We only had one practice with the younger players on the varsity before we played Loch Raven," said McClelland. "It took a little time to adjust to each other."
After that slight regression came two victories in the regionals, propelling the Lions to their first regional title.
"I just never thought we would go this far," said McClelland, who registered 12 saves in Saturday's 1-0 victory over Chesapeake-AA in the state semifinals. "I figured we were too young to go beyond the regionals."
Quinn still is fretting over her youthful squad.
"We start two seniors and two juniors, so the rest are ninth and 10th graders," said Quinn. "I don't know whether we should make more changes for Centennial, or go with what we have been doing well."
McClelland, who said she gave up playing in goal during her rec-league career because "it was a boring position," is excited at the prospect of facing the Howard County champions.
"I know they will shoot a lot and I expect they will be very good," said McClelland. "If we can get a quick goal, we should do fine."
In the 4 p.m. game of the doubleheader, Hammond and Wilde Lake will play for the Class 1A-2A championship.
* Aberdeen has openings for its invitational wrestling tournament. Contact coach Dick Slutzky (272-7600).
* Saturday's 11:30 a.m. alumni lacrosse game at North County welcomes all former players from Brooklyn Park and Andover as well. Proceeds will benefit the scholarship fund. For details, call 757-7892 or 788-6880.
* Northeast-AA baseball coach Harry Lentz, who has guided his Eagles to a 46-1 record over the last two seasons, will receive the Easton National Championship Award in January at the American Baseball Coaches Association convention in January. In 26 seasons, Lentz has a career record of 312-166.