Yvette McKinney and Carlos Perez turned and hugged each other Wednesday after the Miami Herald’s All-Dade Athletic Awards Ceremonies concluded.
There was good reason: It was because they could appreciate what each other had done over the course of their professional careers, and that included coaching, teaching, mentoring, nurturing and, most importantly, simply caring about kids.
Those are the same attributes McKinney and Perez practiced day in and day out and are the reasons they walked away with Lifetime Achievement Awards during the breakfast affair at Jungle Island.
McKinney and Perez, both of whom are retiring as athletic directors, had nearly similar answers when asked what they would take away from their four-decade careers.
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▪ McKinney, 64: “What I will miss most is the interaction with the athletes and students on a daily basis. They gave me so much more than I gave them.”
▪ Perez, 62: “I was originally planning to be an architect of buildings. Instead, I became an architect of kids that have touched my life.”
They both summed up their careers with the exact same no-regrets words: "It has been great."
McKinney spent all 40 of her years at Palmetto High, and most of Perez’s 41 years were spent at Miami Springs High with smaller stints at Miami Springs Junior High and Ronald Reagan High.
McKinney was Palmetto’s softball coach for nine years, with 218 wins and 47 losses with a state championship and state runner-up finish to her credit. She also served as the school’s volleyball coach for six years, (105 wins, 42 losses) and was the first black female athletic director for a Miami-Dade public school.
In addition, McKinney was the first black female to officiate NCAA women’s basketball, and in 1997 she officiated the NCAA women’s championship game.
Her fondest memory comes quickly to mind. “That was when they named the basketball court at Palmetto after me, and my father was there to see that. His reaction is something I will always remember.”
The court dedication came on May 9, 2012, and McKinney’s father passed away the next year.
Perez also will walk away with fond memories.
He coached John Cangelosi in baseball at Miami Springs High, and Cangelosi went on to play for seven major-league teams, including the then-Florida Marlins in 1997 when they won the World Series. “He was the kid who everybody said was never going to make it,” Perez recalled. “But he did.”
One motto Perez often used and believed in showed his ever-present optimistic outlook: “Nothing is a problem until it becomes a problem.”
“Bittersweet” is the way Perez described retiring, saying, “Every day was an adventure. Each day was a surprise box. Waking up and going to work every day — I enjoyed every minute of it.”