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After he moved back to the Phoenix area, Kiefer's alma mater, Tempe High, hired him as a math teacher and assistant football coach. He worked there for a year. Then, in 1964, he signed on with newly built Tempe McClintock.
McClintock won from the git-go, and some saw Kiefer simply as a Frank Kush discipline clone who made pliant players do things one way--his way. It was true then, as now, that Kiefer made few concessions to society's changing mores. But he rose above the cluster of coaches who push their players around for their own egos. Though he was winning, Kiefer reassessed his approach to coaching after he developed an ulcer in his 20s.
"I didn't realize at first that life can't be intense all the time," Kiefer says. "You get too old too fast that way. Coaching is intuitive, and it's hard to be intuitive when you're tired and stressed all the time. You have to be all there for your kids. I wanted to be a better coach. So I worked at changing myself, at keeping it simple."
Through it all, Kiefer stayed focused on the three most important things in his life--football, family and faith. His coaching philosophy remained basic: Outcondition your opponent. Adjust at halftime. Find assistants you can trust. Showcase your stars. Be consistent.
"In a way, Karl is kind of tunnel-visioned for his kids," says his wife, Sharon. "He commands discipline and he's right down there in the trenches with them. He's one of a dying breed. You stick with him, he'll do anything he can for you."
The coach isn't big on social issues or intellectual pursuits. But he's a walking example of how to give to others. He spends hours on the telephone counseling and making calls for ex-players who need a job or simply advice on something. Once his player, always his player.
Dozens of "Kiefer's Kids" at McClintock went on to play college football. Some made it to the pros. His program was among the most consistently powerful in the state.
"After a while, everybody knew we were gonna have good teams," Kiefer says. "We became hated for that and we loved it."
And, the coach adds without a trace of doubt, "The same thing is gonna happen at Mountain Pointe."
@body:Traditions. Some hate them. Others seek to change them. But only rarely comes the opportunity to make them.
--Cover of Mountain Pointe's first yearbook
Coach Kiefer faces a roomful of parents in Mountain Pointe's weight room, a state-of-the-art facility that would make many colleges proud. Behind him a handwritten message reads: "Bigger! Faster! Stronger!"
It is Open House night and the school is packed. There's nowhere to sit but on the weight benches. Some parents stare at Kiefer with the same wide-eyed fear their youngsters sometimes show.
Kiefer, of course, is himself--brusque but approachable in his short presentation.
A mother stops to shake his hand on her way to another of her son's classes.
"I want to thank you for making my boy do things he didn't know he could do," she tells him. "Know what I mean?"
"Yes, I do," Kiefer replies.
Karl Kiefer had the best of all worlds when he went over to Mountain Pointe as football coach and head of the physical education department before the 1990-91 school year: a spanking-new facility, a pal for a principal and most of his coaching staff from McClintock.
He says he wasn't overly concerned about finding good players, most of whom would have attended Corona del Sol or Tempe High if Mountain Pointe hadn't opened.
"You can always find kids who want to win," says Kiefer. "Everybody knows that's why they hired me. People like winners."
But something happened at the start of Mountain Pointe's first year that no one had anticipated: The media termed it a "race riot."
The school is about 75 percent white. Thirteen percent of the students are Hispanic, while about 6 percent each are black and Asian American. Interviews with students and teachers indicate that what happened was no riot.
"A white kid told some black kids to go back to their own neighborhoods," Kiefer recalls. "He used bad words that he got from his redneck parents. There was fighting. The black kids were defending their name and honor."
Principal Slemmer quickly met with the parents of most students involved in the melee. But, Slemmer says, the kid who allegedly started the brawl never returned to the school.
Kiefer doesn't tolerate race problems on his football teams. "At this late date, it amazes me that some people still hate each other because of skin color," he says. "In school, kids should try to understand and respect those who look different than them. On the field, I don't even want my kids to think about stuff like that."
That's what made the addition of Jay Carter to Mountain Pointe's squad last year a compelling tale. The black sophomore wanted to play football, but he didn't try out for the team on time. Further souring his chances, Carter had a classroom blowup with Dick Baniszewski, the assistant coach who heads the social studies department.