He was stout and strong, looking the part of a guy who would toss beer kegs for kicks.
He had a square jaw, bear-sized hands and a whispery growl of a voice that made players stand to attention, in or out of shoulder pads.
Chic Bist was also about the nicest man you could find, a gregarious giver. He was everyone’s friend. It meant something to play for him, or coach alongside of him, or compete against him.
A high school coaching fixture for 44 years up the Highway 50 corridor, Bist died Monday night after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 71.
Bist’s illness prevented him from coaching Union Mine this season, which deeply pained him. He turned the program over to his son, Jacob, who led the team to a 1-1 start in his father’s honor.
Jacob joked before the season opener that he would do his “best effort at doing my dad’s growly voice.”
Perhaps the crowning moment of Bist’s career came last fall when, after a slow start, Union Mine won the Sierra Valley Conference. He led the Diamondbacks of El Dorado to two playoff showings in his three seasons as head coach.
That Bist continued to coach despite his cancer plight spoke of his refusal to quit. He had every reason not to coach but argued there was every reason to coach. He lost daughter Hope Bist on May 23, 2018, a victim of an early morning, single-car crash off Ponderosa Road in Shinge Springs. She was on her way to Ponderosa High, where she was a popular student-athlete.
Bist told The Bee before a scrimmage at Capital Christian last season that he had to coach. It gave him purpose.
“If I didn’t coach,” he said softly, “I’d die for sure.”
Bist lived for football. He had NFL tryouts in the early 1970s with the Rams and Redskins and earned induction into the American Football Association Semi-Pro Hall of Fame for his linebacking prowess. He had coaching stints at various levels at El Dorado, Oak Ridge, Ponderosa and Union Mine. He also had a brief head coaching stint at Burbank in the 1990s.
He loved all of his players, but his favorite players were his sons.
Jacob, the Union Mine coach, canceled practice on Tuesday to allow players to talk, share, reflect and regroup.
Jacob called his father, “a legend and my hero.”
He also said, “People knew when Dad was around just because of his voice. He was all about putting other people first. It didn’t matter what you looked like, if you were purple, brown, black, white - he saw you for who you truly were.
“He was a leader and the strongest person I’d ever met physically and mentally, I love hearing all the stories about how strong my dad was in the weight room and how good he was in football.”
Jacob said it was a thrill to grow up on the sideline with his father with lasting lessons.
“If you came to our house, you’d see everything to do with football,” he said. “The man lived and breathed it but as for a lot of kids that have been coached by him, the biggest thing we learned wasn’t about football. It was about life.”
Added Union Mine assistant coach Brad Mumm, “The world lost a great man. Bist made an impression on me that has made me a better person I will never forget him. He cared more about the boys than he did football. He was intent on making them better men, better husbands and better fathers.”
That’s the measure of the best coaches. Capital Christian coach Casey Taylor has known Bist since the early 1980s, attending Ponderosa games as a child to watch Bist coach and then coaching against him while playing for Oak Ridge. When Taylor became head coach at Del Oro in the 2000s, he and Bist became friends.
“I really bonded with him over the past few years,” Taylor said. “We would always talk about ways to make kids better off the field. He had a true passion for people and especially our youth.
”Chic will be missed by so many people that he impacted. Such a huge loss for an entire community. He was an amazing man, a great coach, mentor, believer, friend, husband and father - one of the greatest men I have had the pleasure to meet.”