During his coaching days, Gary Pinkel never noticed the booming sounds of the “Mizzouka” howitzer that’s fired each time the Mizzou Tigers score a touchdown. He was too focused on the game.
Now that he’s retired, football is going to be a totally different experience.
Pinkel retired in November and is in the midst of a battle with follicular lymphoma. In a recent interview with Tod Palmer of the Kansas City Star, Pinkel discussed what a big adjustment it’s going to be for him to not be coaching football this fall.
After being hired as the Tigers’ head coach prior to the 2001 season, Pinkel became the winningest coach in program history. He led Mizzou to division championships five times, and he finished his coaching career with an overall record of 118-73 with the Tigers.
The 2015 season was particularly difficult for Pinkel, however. In addition to fighting cancer, Pinkel had to deal with what amounted to an eight-game suspension of quarterback Maty Mauk. Mauk was later dismissed from the program.
There was also a high-profile boycott of the football program as part of a student-led effort to force the resignation of then-president Tim Wolfe for his handling of a series of racial incidents on campus. Pinkel supported his players in the boycott.
Pinkel’s lymphoma is treatable, but he opted to retire from coaching to enjoy time with his family — something that isn’t easy to manage with a coach’s schedule.
“Before you back away from it, you don’t realize how consuming it really is,” Pinkel told Palmer. “You’re up every day at 5:30 working out, getting coffee at 7 and being in the office by 7:30 for meetings all day long. Then, you do it again. I look back at it and go, ‘My goodness,’ but I didn’t think anything of it at the time. I loved what I did and I was blessed.”
Pinkel is making the most of retirement so far, taking in concerts with his wife, Missy, and enjoying his grandchildren’s soccer games. He’s even considering a role in broadcasting. While Pinkel has put the stress of coaching college football behind him, he’ll never be able to put the game completely behind him. This summer, he and Missy will hit the road to visit Pinkel’s former players during NFL training camps.