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Rodeo coach leaves legacy of quiet leadership

Kathy Aney

East Oregonian

Published on September 5, 2018 12:01AM

Last changed on September 6, 2018 10:20PM

Retiring BMCC rodeo coach Larry Patterson heads a steer while team roping Wednesday outside of Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Retiring BMCC rodeo coach Larry Patterson heads a steer while team roping Wednesday outside of Pendleton.

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Retiring BMCC rodeo coach Larry Patterson warms up a horse while team roping Wednesday outside of Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Retiring BMCC rodeo coach Larry Patterson warms up a horse while team roping Wednesday outside of Pendleton.

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Retiring BMCC rodeo coach Larry Patterson cinches up his saddle on a horse while team roping Wednesday outside of Pendleton.

Staff photo by E.J. Harris

Retiring BMCC rodeo coach Larry Patterson cinches up his saddle on a horse while team roping Wednesday outside of Pendleton.

Buy this photo

Some might remember the old E.F. Hutton commercial. As a client starts to share his stockbroker’s advice with a friend, the noise level at the restaurant immediately plummets to pin-drop levels. Everyone leans in to hear.

“When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen,” an off-camera male voice says.

Larry Patterson is like E.F. Hutton, except in the form of a college rodeo coach. When he speaks, his athletes lean in.

The long-time Blue Mountain Community College rodeo coach retired recently (for the second time) from coaching at BMCC. During his 30-plus years with the team, a multitude of athletes learned to appreciate his low-key, unpretentious style.

“He was never the kind of coach who was busy critiquing every single thing. He wasn’t a rah-rah, overbearing kind of guy,” said Jason Stewart, a member of the 1994 team. “He was the guy who let you figure it out. When he spoke, something really substantial came out of his mouth.”

“He only said what needed to be said,” said Jake Stanley, on the team from 2002-05.

Patterson helped shepherd both ropers into the rodeo limelight. Stewart, of Heppner, is a two-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier. He won the steer roping event at the Pendleton Round-Up in 2003.

Stanley, a roper from Hermiston, qualified for the NFR in 2008 and won team roping at the Pendleton Round-Up in 2014 with his partner Bucky Campbell.

Patterson has loved rodeo since boyhood.

“My dad started me roping when I was a little boy,” Patterson said. “I went to my first jackpot roping when I was 10. I was hooked after that.”

Patterson arrived at BMCC in 1974 to join the school’s rodeo team. The Idaho native hadn’t planned on Pendleton until a rodeo friend suggested the college and convinced him to join the team.

The 18-year-old rode bareback, roped calves, competed in team roping and wrestled steers. He later competed for Washington State University where he also earned an animal sciences degree with an emphasis on nutrition.

In the late 1970s, Patterson moved to Pendleton to partner in a feedlot operation and soon reconnected with the rodeo team, supplying cattle for practices, and eventually started coaching. Patterson served as assistant coach from 1979-1998 and head coach from 1999-2004 before retiring. He returned in 2011 after being asked by the college, agreeing to split head coaching duties with Shawn Eng. The two men were mostly interchangeable, though Eng more often guided the rough stock athletes and Patterson coached the ropers and other timed event competitors.

A highpoint for Patterson were the two straight years (2015 and 2016) when the BMCC women’s team brought home national team titles from the College National Finals Rodeo. It was quite a feat for the team from a tiny community college in Northeast Oregon that didn’t even have its own arena.

“The girls, they worked at it,” he said. “They knew how to win.”

The team’s had plenty of other standouts. He ticked off names: R.C. Landingham, Brad Goodrich, Dakota Eldridge, Lee Graves, Callahan Crossley and many others.

Patterson loves the complexity of rodeo.

“There are a lot of variables in rodeo,” he said. “I don’t know if you can master it completely. There always something to improve on.”

Patterson won’t be at loose ends without his coaching duties. He partners in a business, Rieth Feeders, and will continue to supply practice cattle for the team.

He will also have more time for his own roping training. He and his team roping partner, Harry Larson, took eighth place and won $60,000 at the #11 World Series of Team Roping in Las Vegas in 2016. He’ll compete in a qualifier this weekend.

Eng, who didn’t know Patterson when they started coaching together in 2011, will miss the partnership they forged.

“He’s humble, genuine and a true friend,” Eng said. “He’s passionate about the rodeo team and BMCC. He always considers the kids first.”

Stewart and Stanley remember Patterson putting in extra hours with those who wanted to keep at it as the sun sunk low in the sky.

“He stayed after numerous nights, opening the chute gate for me,” Stanley said. “I credit Larry Patterson for getting me to NFR. I had no reason not to be good.”

Stanley said Patterson often hopped on his horse and roped alongside his athletes.

“He was better than all of us,” Stanley said. “He’s a phenomenal roper, and an even better human being. He’s one of my ultimate role models.”

In the wake of Patterson’s resignation, Eng will continue as head coach. In a slight reorganization of coaching duties, Kayla Teiggs, who competed for BMCC from 2008 to 2010, has been hired to coach the women’s rodeo team.

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Contact Kathy Aney at kaney@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0810.





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