A few years from now, Sherman fans will look back on the Gary Kinne coaching era more fondly than some are today.

A few years from now, Sherman fans will look back on the Gary Kinne coaching era more fondly than some are today.

They’ll look at the 41 victories, four consecutive playoff appearances in five years, and five total playoff wins. They’ll see the back-to-back district championship trophies from 2010-11 and remember when the Ax sat next to them for three straight years.

They’ll recall how they made the December trip to Dallas and watched the Bearcats battle mighty Tyler John Tyler to a stalemate at halftime in the state quarterfinals in 2011, and the record-breaking offensive output the Bearcats generated in 2012.

That’s before mentioning all the Bearcats who played for Kinne and went on to play college football at places like Baylor, North Texas, Oklahoma, TCU and Texas Tech.

All the other stuff — the bending and breaking of University Interscholastic League rules, often-sloppy play on defense that didn’t match the talent level, indecision on naming a starting quarterback a couple of times, and player behavior which seemed to point toward lax discipline — will be mostly forgotten.

Lots of those things proved to be Kinne’s undoing in Sherman, and he got out ahead of the posse. But positive steps were taken during the 4 1/2 years that Kinne hung his cap and whistle here.

Under his watch, the woeful condition of flood-prone Bearcat Stadium was upgraded to one of the best natural surfaces in Texas high school football.

That first fall, which was one of the rainiest on record, turned the playing field into goo that was so bad, Kinne seriously considered moving the last home game to Van Alstyne. Truckloads of sand and the hard work of Scott Conrad and the Sherman ISD maintenance crew saved the day.

And at Kinne’s urging, the dressing rooms at the stadium were renovated in 2010, at no additional expense to taxpayers. The dressing rooms underneath the visiting bleachers now have working plumbing and hot showers.

As athletic director, Kinne rubbed a lot of people the wrong way by virtually overhauling the entire athletic department and blowing out the old guard from the Ronnie Tipps-Drew Young era. But it was hard to argue with the results in the 2011-12 school year, when Sherman swept district titles in football, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball.

Of course, when you mention the good, you also have to mention the bad.

The high-water mark of the 2013 football season was Sherman’s 55-44 win at McKinney North, a game in which Tre’ Mask ran for seven touchdowns and the Bearcats seemed poised once again for district title contention.

One week later, the program was in turmoil.

As late as the Wednesday afternoon before the 115th Battle of the Ax against Denison, Kinne was preparing to coach the game.

But the next day, Kinne was handed a one-game suspension by the UIL executive committee in Austin for violations of UIL by-laws, which included participation in offseason 7-on-7 football and use of school equipment during a June tournament in Arkansas. Kinne was also handed a two-year probation and a public reprimand.

Kinne served his suspension during the annual rivalry game, which the Bearcats lost, 42-24. Offensive coordinator Don Purdy coached the team in Kinne’s absence.

On Saturday morning, Kinne was back in his office, and the matter seemed settled — until the following Monday, when a special meeting of the Sherman ISD board of trustees was called to discuss the UIL decision.

The board took no action after a two-hour closed session, but superintendent Al Hambrick’s statement at the end of the meeting suggested that Kinne might face additional sanctions from the school district. That was when Kinne was stripped of his title as athletic director.

With all the off-the-field distractions and some key injuries and bad grade reports mixed in, the Bearcats lost four of five to finish 4-6 and out of the playoffs, the first losing season of Kinne’s head coaching career.

Even on the sideline, Kinne coached with a chip on his shoulder. He was never Jim Harbaugh-level crazy at arguing calls, but he was never shy about pleading his case. One memorable moment was J.T. Luper pulling Kinne away from an official during the Rockwall-Heath playoff game in 2011. (I think I still have it on my DVR.)

The attitude filtered down to his players. Aggressive play on the field was Kinne’s hallmark, but in 2013 the Bearcats took it too far, and it cost them.

The Bearcats committed penalties by the dozen on many nights. In all but one game (against Lovejoy), Sherman committed at least eight penalties, and in all but two games they accrued at a minimum 80 yards’ worth, with triple digits three times and a high of 140 in the season finale against Greenville.

Each of the last two home finales at Bearcat Stadium was marred by a shoving match at the end of the game. The more recent one, against Greenville, will be the final memory Bearcat fans will have of a Kinne-coached team.

Where does Sherman go from here?

For now, there’s no rush. Spring football is more than three months away and Hambrick, interim athletic director Tommy Hudspeth and others on the search committee have plenty of time to make the right hire.

The job opening hadn’t yet been posted as of Monday, but the duties of head football coach and AD are likely to be recombined.

No doubt, some of the applicants who made the finalist list in 2009 will apply again. Other coaches in the area who have Sherman ties will come up in conversation, but it remains to be seen whether they will be interested.

The applicant list was short five years ago, in part because of the timing of the vacancy but also because of the perception (based on a 2005 report by the Austin American-Statesman that’s still out there) that Sherman wasn’t a well-paying job.

For lots of hot young up-and-comers looking to get their foot in the door in the new Class 5A, though, salary won’t be that big an issue. They’ll see a roster with lots of young talent and a chance, pending the new alignment in two weeks, to resume winning.

Sherman’s football program is at a higher profile than it was five years ago, and is certainly talked about a lot more.

For better or worse, that’s probably the biggest legacy of Gary Kinne’s tenure.