Thanksgiving should be interesting at the Pinion household in Atkins this week.
Bill and LorNeva Pinion will celebrate the holiday Wednesday with their children — Craig Pinion and Carin Pinion-McNabb — and their families.
But Tuesday night could set the tone for the family’s get-together.
On that day, Craig Pinion’s Atkins Lady Red Devils will travel to Carin Pinion-McNabb’s Morrilton Lady Devil Dogs for a high school basketball game. It will mark the first time the siblings have coached against each other.
Their parents are in the middle.
“They didn’t get along very well when they were younger, but now they’ve settled in and are close,” LorNeva Pinion said. “I told Carin, ‘Please, let’s don’t ruin the progress we’ve made. Just remember, it’s the girls playing — not y’all.’”
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Craig Pinion, 44, is in his 20th year of coaching, including time under Marty Barnes and Joe Foley at Arkansas Tech University. He spent 10 years as the boys coach of the siblings’ alma mater, Atkins, before making the switch to the girls team last year. He and his wife, Gail, have six children.
Carin Pinion-McNabb, 40, played for some of Foley’s legendary Arkansas Tech teams in the early 1990s. She also worked under Foley before heading to Pottsville, where she spent four seasons. She then came back to Tech under Foley and succeeded him when he went to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock before she returned to the high school game. She coached at Hector; had daughter Chloe, now 6, and son Champ, 4, with her husband, Cody McNabb, the football coach at Morrilton; and went to Dardanelle for three years and to Morrilton last year.
“I needed a game; he needed a game,” she said of scheduling the contest with her brother. “I think it’s good for both schools.”
Morrilton is Class 5A; Atkins is Class 3A, so on paper, little sister has the edge heading into the game.
“I look forward to it,” Craig said. “For us, we’re just trying to build the program back to the level it used to be. I think it will be a fun atmosphere and a pretty intense game. I enjoy the challenge of playing a larger school. I wouldn’t want to play 12 of them, but she’s building her program back, and I’m sure they’re looking at a game they think they’ll probably win.
“For us, the objective is to compete.”
For the coaches’ parents, the objective is to survive.
Bill Pinion said he would try to stay neutral.
“I’ve never been in this situation before, and I really don’t care if I’m in it again,” he said.
He is the more laid-back of the parental pair. Carin takes after him.
LorNeva is the animated one. On the sideline, Craig takes after her.
“I tend to go after the officials,” LorNeva said. “I might, if I open my mouth, get thrown out. That wouldn’t look very good on either one of the coaches.”
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Carla Crowder, now coaching at Cabot, was an important influence on both Pinions when they were students at Atkins. Craig was an accounting major at Tech. He didn’t plan to coach, even when he coached his sister’s Amateur Athletic Union team. Carin, on the other hand, always knew she wanted to coach.
Having both coached under Foley, the siblings’ philosophies are similar, and Craig said the two often pick each other’s brains about basketball.
“It’s not the basis of our relationship, but it is a part of it,” he said. “I tell her she’s too hard on her girls, and she tells me the same thing.”
Carin characterized their relationship while growing up as that of a typical brother and sister.
“Very competitive,” she said. “We are way closer now than we have probably ever been.”
Craig said his sister was more controlling than he was on the court.
“I have kind of evolved to the place where I don’t try to make every decision for them, which is strange now that I’ve gotten to a group of kids that want me to,” he said. “Ten years ago, if I’d let those good boys teams play, we’d probably have been better off. I don’t see myself as having as much of a thumb on them on the court as she does.”
Carin said her normally laid-back brother sometimes becomes a different person on the sideline.
“I told him when he was coaching boys he was going to have to change or have a heart attack,” she said.
She said sibling rivalry would play no part in Tuesday’s game.
“Obviously, I want to win, whoever I play,” she said. “We want to beat each other — no doubt about it. But I think we’re to the point now in our careers that we want our kids to get better. That’s our focus.”
But they wouldn’t be human — or siblings — without taking it at least a little personally.
Craig said the game sets up perfectly. He’s adept at the old coach’s ploy of poor-mouthing.
“It’s early in the year,” he said. “We don’t have to play again on Friday; conference play is still three weeks off. My team doesn’t have anything to lose. It’s an opportunity to play a stronger team, physically and sizewise, to prepare us for conference. They’re going to be athletic.
“I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know how she’s looking at it other than, between me and you, she’s counting it as a win. And she should.”
Perhaps the only loser this week will be LorNeva Pinion. Carin tried to talk her mother into staying home with the grandchildren Tuesday night, but she said she didn’t think she could stand that, either.
“I guess I’d better pray a lot before,” LorNeva said, “and sit on my hands and put tape on my mouth.”