Eric Kinnaman

Eric Kinnaman announced his retirement Friday after more than 20 years of coaching for Belgrade High's football program.

After more than two decades of coaching Belgrade High’s football team, Eric Kinnaman has announced his retirement. He submitted his resignation Friday to cap 15 years at the helm and 21 with program.

Kinnaman stressed that he wasn’t forced out or asked to resign after the Panthers finished 1-8 this past season. It was simply the right time for him to step away from coaching football.

“I look at it more as a retirement and the reason why is I’ve spent 21 years and 15 as the head coach, and this is kind of it for football in a ways,” Kinnaman said. “I’ve got some other things on my plate coming up, but as far as football goes I really don’t see myself stepping back in and that’s why I say retirement rather than resignation.”

Kinnaman added that after discussing it with his family this was the right year to walk away. Especially with his oldest son, Dyson, graduating in the spring and his youngest son entering high school next fall.

“I’ve always really liked to coach my kids. Did I get into it to coach my kids, no, by no means, I started 21 years ago before my kids were even born,” Kinnaman said. “I’ve really enjoyed coaching Dyson, who is my oldest, and it was either now or in four years. And I’ve thought about retirement the last three, four or five years anyways and I don’t know if I could handle four more years.”

Belgrade Activities Director Toby Robinson, who once served as an assistant coach under Kinnaman, noted it was a “bummer” to lose a coach who poured his heart and soul into the program.

“You can almost pat him on the back, give him and hug, and say, ‘You know what, you’ve done your part. You’ve done what you can. Thank you, thank you for your time.’ And just kind of wish him well,” said Robinson. “It’s hard to be sad about it because you know he’s going to go off and do some baseball.” 

Kinnaman was recently hired as an assistant coach for the Belgrade Bandits, an American Legion program. He joins the staff of Ryan Johnerson, who was named the new head coach in early October.

Kinnaman had a highly successful run as head coach for the Panthers after taking the helm in 2007. His teams posted a 67-52 record in Class A, which included 10 postseason berths, nine winning seasons, three league championships, and three appearances in the State A semifinals.

Belgrade moved up to AA in 2019 and it’s been a rough transition. The program has gone just 2-21 over the past three years, but Kinnaman noted he’s grateful for the continued support from the school and community.

“Over the last 15 years I’ve been so happy with the way the community has treated me, and what the community has gave me, and what Belgrade High School have given me and the chances that I’ve been given. I’m nothing but happy with the support that has been given over the last 15 years whether it be Class A or double A,” he said. “The community and especially the parents, they knew what we were up against when we went from single A to double A. They knew it was going to be a transition period and they’ve been nothing but supportive of the program, myself, and the coaching staff these past three years. I’m very pleased and very happy with the career I’ve had here at Belgrade High School.”

While football appears to be in the rearview mirror for Kinnaman, he’ll have plenty of fond memories.

“There’s been some really fun games that I’ve coached in and I’ve been fortunate to have really good players,” he said. “It’s been really fun and it’s been a great journey, and it’s just time for that journey to end.”

Robinson plans to post the position by the end of the week, but noted there is no immediate time frame to hire a successor.

“I hope to have this (the job description) done and posted by Friday and I am in no hurry. I’ll wait until January (to hire someone) if I have to,” he said. “But what I’m looking for is some good quality candidates, some people that are going to lead us in the right direction. Some people that are going to have the time commitment for this and understand the time commitment, so experience is going to be a big thing for me.” 

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