Through seven decades, Bellevue West coach John Faiman left his mark on football in Nebraska.
Faiman died Saturday night of an apparent heart attack at his Bellevue home. He was 71.
He had been at Bellevue West since 1985, returning to high school football after eight years as a college assistant.
“I don't think of age. I don't believe I am 70, coaching with these young bucks and supposed to be like them,” Faiman said last fall.
“I might coach until I'm 80.”
Bellevue West's athletic director, Kevin Broderick, said Faiman's staff plans to meet with players Monday morning. The coaches met with Broderick on Sunday. Grief counselors also will be at the school Monday for students.
Faiman also was a dean of students at Bellevue West.
“This is just crushing,” Broderick said. “He was an icon for Bellevue West. It's tough to lose a person like that.
“He was a good friend and I'm going to miss that friendship.”
Retired Omaha Creighton Prep coach Tom Jaworski said Faiman “was a coach's coach.”
“Above all, he was just a tremendous person,” Jaworski said. “He was always fun to visit with and be around. One of the things I missed about not coaching was when John and I would trade films on Saturday mornings. We'd even have breakfast together, get a cup of coffee and talk.
“The coaching profession lost a good one.”
Faiman is believed to be the oldest coach to take a team to the Nebraska high school playoffs. With his final team going 3-7 in 2011, his career record was 192-173-3, including a 124-126 record at Bellevue West.
“I'd say he was the best offensive mind in high school football in the state,” said Broderick, whose son Dusty was an all-state quarterback for the Thunderbirds.
Broderick said his son regarded Faiman as possessing more knowledge about offense than his college coaches at Montana State.
A native of South Omaha, Faiman was an All-Nebraska quarterback at Omaha South. He led the Packers to a share of the mythical state title in 1958 and played in the first Nebraska Shrine Bowl in 1959.
He also was a baseball player, good enough to be considered a pro prospect, and once hit a homer out of the then-Municipal Stadium (Rosenblatt) for his summer Legion team.
Then-coach Bill Jennings recruited Faiman to Nebraska. As a senior, he threw two touchdowns in Bob Devaney's first game as Husker coach. But Faiman's playing career in football ended with a broken leg midway through the conference season. He lettered the next spring in baseball as an outfielder.
His coaching career started with four years at David City, then two at McCook and seven at Omaha South. In 1977, he joined the new staff of ex-NU assistant Warren Powers at Washington State and the Cougars opened with a win against Nebraska in Lincoln. The next year, he followed Powers to Missouri and the Tigers beat then-No. 2 NU 35-31 in Lincoln.
Faiman went to Utah as offensive coordinator in 1984. Head coach Chuck Stobart was fired after the season. Faiman went to Kansas State in 1985 as offensive line coach. Head coach Jim Dickey was fired after two games.
Faiman said that was enough for him.
“I got tired of coaches getting fired,” he said last year.
Among players Faiman coached in high school were Outland Trophy winner Dave Rimington at Omaha South and NBA veteran Erick Strickland and former NU wingback Clester Johnson at Bellevue West.
Bellevue West's best season under Faiman was 10-1 in 2004. The Thunderbirds were undefeated until losing 38-35 in the state quarterfinals to Millard North after a 17-point comeback to take the lead.
Faiman is survived by his wife, Sherry, and sons Scott and Kelly. Services are pending.
“John touched a lot of lives and made a difference,” Broderick said. “I hope he understood what a profound effect he had.”
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