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Colleagues mourn former Truman coach Guinnee

Bill Althaus
Billy Guinnee spent 25 years coaching at Truman, 12 as an assistant coach and 13 as a head coach before retiring in 2016. Guinnee passed away Friday.

Family, friends and former colleagues and players are mourning after former Truman High School boys basketball coach Billy Guinnee passed away over the weekend.

Guinnee, who was part of the Truman boys basketball program for 25 years, died of a heart attack Friday while playing basketball with his son in the family driveway.

Guinnee, 58, won 200 games while coaching at Truman – 12 years as an assistant to Steve Broughton and 13 as a head coach. He retired in 2016 and was replaced by current coach Rod Briggs.

“I got a text from (Truman baseball coach) Corey Lathrom saying Billy was playing basketball with his son Gunnar and one of Gunnar’s friends, and I can’t even imagine what that must have been like for Gunnar and (his mom) Jami,” said Jim Page, a longtime assistant coach for Guinnee.

“I’m still in shock! I wanted to reach out to as many people as I could to let them know what happened. Billy touched so many lives and he was such an important person in my life. I coached with him for 20 years – and now he’s gone. I still can’t believe it.”

Truman principal Ronda Scott had a similar reaction to Page when she heard about Guinnee.

“When I found out I was shocked – totally shocked,” Scott said. “Billy meant so much to so many people at Truman – his former players, his former students. My children had him as a teacher and loved him.

“I still can’t believe it.”

Neither can Truman activities director Daniel Bieser, who was the former boys basketball coach at Van Horn High School.

“Rod was the coach when I took over as activities director this past year at Truman, so I never worked with Billy in that capacity, but we did a couple of youth clinics and he was such a great guy and coach,” Bieser said.

“When you played Billy’s Patriots, you better be ready to go because he always had his kids prepared. He is going to be missed by a lot of people.”

When Broughton, who later died of cancer, retired from Truman, Guinnee took over in a low-key manner that mirrored the way Broughton conducted himself on the court.

“I started off coaching my nieces in the IYAA (Independence Youth Athletic Association) and that evolved into coaching AAU teams when Missouri Valley AAU was really big and (former Truman athletic director) Don Coffman asked if I would be interested in coaching high school basketball, and I told him I would,” Guinnee told The Examiner when he retired in 2016. “Steve was coaching at the time and I went down to his office in the locker room and met with him.

“I was expecting a long interview process and he asked, ‘Do you know how to run the flex offense?’ And I said I did, and he said, ‘OK, you’re hired.’ And that was it – 25 years ago. He trusted me to run with it, and run with it I did.

“Working with him was a learning experience every day. The one thing I took from him was his composure. He never got rattled, never got mad. I do remember once though when he was fired up, he was yelling down in the locker room, and he never yelled. I was standing by the chalkboard – which shows you how long ago it was, we still had chalkboards – and he was yelling and he fired a piece of chalk at the chalkboard and it missed me by about two inches.

“After that, I never stood by the chalkboard when he was mad. Luckily, it wasn’t too often.”

Jami Guinnee has told friends that funeral details will be made public when they are completed.