When, as a young coach, Rob Rafeh met Anderson Valley High athletic director Robert Pinoli, he took note of what he saw as an honest, hardworking man.
And then he saw him scraping gum from the gym floor with a wooden tongue depressor and his definition of hardworking went through a minor recalibration.
“A lot of times, you look at an athletic director, someone who’s been there that long, they tend to grow into a figurehead role,” Rafeh said. “It’s ‘Hey, you need to go take care of this’ and ‘You need to take care of that.’ You never saw that from Robert.”
When Rafeh brought a basketball team up from the Bay Area to the 60-year-old Redwood Classic varsity boys basketball tournament, he’d see Pinoli, who has spent the past 30 years teaching, coaching and acting as athletic director, flipping burgers in the snack bar, scheduling games and paying the refs. He even mopped the floor, but that was an unscheduled duty.
“We were playing a game and the roof was leaking,” Rafeh recalled.
So between the action, Pinoli would dart onto the court, mop the floor and hustle back to the sideline. He did it all night long.
I joked that if Pinoli were really devoted to his job and to Anderson Valley, he would have been on that roof in the rain, stopping the leak with chewing gum.
It wouldn’t have surprised him one bit, Rafeh said before telling me another Pinoli story.
One year at the Redwood Classic, Rafeh was admiring the new tiles in the locker room, new toilets, paint job in school colors — the works.
“I said, ‘Wow Robert, you must have done some good” to have gotten all this, he said. “He kind of smiled and laughed and he said ‘Who do you think did that over the summer? He said ‘Last year was re-staining the bleachers, this year was the bathroom.’ ”
It is for those contributions, small and large but always crucial, to Anderson Valley athletics and Anderson Valley Junior Senior High School as a whole that Pinoli, 64, was named California’s Athletic Director of the Year by the California State Athletic Directors Association in Reno (I know, Nevada, go figure) last month.
“Oftentimes small schools get overlooked when it comes to these big awards,” Rafeh, a member of CSADA’s executive board, said. “People look at programs and wins and history and championships, but they rarely look at the small school where the AD is taking apart the bleachers in the summer to stain them.”
So much of what an AD does is mundane. But so much of what an AD is absolutely key to letting coaches coach, kids play and administrators not worry. It’s a largely thankless job, so the CSADA polls reps from the 10 sections across California to see who is going above the call of duty.
Pinoli hears the call of duty in his sleep, it seems.
“We make sure the kids have schedules, make sure the kids have funding,” Pinoli said. “We have a fantastic booster club and support of the people in the valley. It’s hours at fundraisers. I spend a lot of nights in the gym and football field and soccer field and baseball field. It’s an all-year-round job.”