At age 72, Tony Binder thought his days of responsibility were behind him.
He retired from teaching U.S. history at Borah High in 2002, and was happily spending his golden years as the swim and tennis director at Plantation Country Club.
Then last summer he received a request he simply couldn’t refuse.
When his daughter, Traci Binder, accepted the women’s tennis head coaching position at NCAA Division III Pacific University in Oregon last summer, Binder’s two granddaughters — Sydnie and Cassidy Binder — were left without a coach for their upcoming varsity tennis season at Borah.
Never miss a local story.
“When she decided to take the job, my granddaughters came to me and they said, ‘Papa, will you please coach our tennis team. Please. Please,’ ” Binder said. “I thought about it, but how do you turn down your granddaughters? You can’t, so I said of course I’ll coach.”
While Binder still had to complete the application process, it wasn’t a stretch to consider the former Idaho State tennis and basketball player a shoo-in for the job.
After all, he’d coached the Lions before.
Binder led the Lions to three state championships and retired from coaching in 1984, and he’d spent the past four seasons working as an assistant for his daughter.
“Now I have the same job I had 33 years ago,” Binder said.
Although his hair may be a bit more gray than it was in the ’80s, Binder is proving just as effective as he was then.
Junior Sydnie is undefeated as the Lions’ No. 1 girls singles player, and freshman Cassidy is 18-1 with partner Madeline Kraus in doubles.
Both are coming off victories at the 32-team Capital Invitational over the weekend.
“They’re really good, because they said, ‘Papa, you’re the coach, and we’re going to do what you say,’ ” Binder said. “They’re very easy to coach.”
The rest of the Lions have enjoyed having Binder around more often, too.
“When I got the job, I had to tell the team, ‘Think of me as your coach and your grandpa, too,’ ” Binder said. “It’s one big Borah family.”
The Binders’ Idaho tennis roots run deep.
Tony won two Big Sky championships playing No. 2 men’s doubles and No. 3 singles for the Bengals. Traci started her career at Cal State Los Angeles with two national tournament appearances before transferring to Boise State, where she played in the No. 1 singles spot.
Sydnie and Cassidy were playing tennis by the time they were 3 years old.
“I think if we didn’t have each other, we wouldn’t be as good,” Cassidy said. “We push each other.”
Because they are so close in age — Sydnie is 17 and Cassidy 15 — the Binder sisters have played with and against each other their entire lives.
“I used to put them together (in tournaments) when they were little, and it didn’t go very well,” Traci said. “Somebody would get mad at the other person and then it was like, ‘It’s over.’ ”
While the competitiveness remains, the sisters value their time together on the court, choosing to learn from each other rather than fight.
“I look up to her,” Cassidy said.
Traci’s job coaching the Pacific women’s team means she has to be in Forest Grove, Ore., for several months in the fall and again in the spring.
The girls didn’t want to move, so grandpa and grandma came to the rescue again. Binder and his ex-wife, Vicki Binder, take turns staying with the girls and their younger brother, Tannor.
“He’s not my mom, but it’s allowed me to become more independent, I think,” Sydnie said. “I’ve been the carpool queen these past few months. I’ve taken everyone to practices and everything on the weekends.
“It’s different, but I really appreciate everything that they’ve done.”