Jim Souhan
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The next time a coach argues one of his calls, Zach Goring should flash a picture of his trophies and moonwalk down the court.

Goring coached Apple Valley to three state boys basketball titles in 11 seasons. He leveraged his status and success into a new gig: refereeing youth basketball games.

Now he gets to hear fans and parents who don't know a pick and roll from a cinnamon roll scream at him to "call it both ways."

Why would someone with Goring's pedigree take such a thankless job?

"I really enjoy these environments," Goring said. "Whether you're reffing a third-grade game or a junior-varsity game, it's a varsity-level game for the kids. It's a big deal to them. It's fun to see the game I love at all different levels, and for me it's great to be out and seeing all of these people I know in the community. It creates a positive couple of hours each day for me."

Goring coached future NBA players Tyus and Tre Jones and Gary Trent Jr. at Apple Valley. Now he's spending time on court with those who will never keep up with the Joneses.

Reffing fits into his new life. His kids go to Farmington schools, and he wanted to be free to see their games. He runs Goring Lawn Care from April 1 through Nov. 1. He works as a substitute teacher at Apple Valley High.

He fills out the rest of his schedule by blocking off the days his children have activities and filling in the other days with as much referee work as he can find.

His son, Ben, is in the ninth grade at Farmington. They ref together frequently on the weekends.

"We've done, I think, three Saturdays of south metro in-house games," Goring said. "He's getting $25 an hour, and we just have fun together. We're officiating, but we're also teaching at the same time. I think that makes it a positive experience for everyone."

Goring hasn't gotten certified to officiate varsity games, and working lower-level games means he can get home for dinner on weekdays and lunch on the weekends. He usually works four or five games each weekend morning at travel tournaments, making $30 a game.

"You can stack up decent money, while doing only games that fit into your schedule," he said.

Goring's story is as important as it is charming. Referees are essential to competition at all levels, and, as far as I can tell, youth referees have never been treated as poorly as they are these days.

"It takes an army of referees to keep sports growing, and I'm happy to be a part of it and help out," Goring said. "I'll do as much as I can, and now four or five of my friends have started officiating. They're enjoying it and adding to the pool of officials so we don't have to cancel games."

Goring deals with arguing coaches and heckling fans with the same grace he exhibited at Apple Valley, when Tyus and Tre played nationally-televised games and brought Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski to their gym.

Goring, director of operations Jeff Groves and the Apple Valley administration made those first-class events for everyone in attendance.

Krzyzewski probably won't be showing up to see Goring officiate his next third-grade in-house contest. That's fine with him. He coaches Ben in the Minnesota Fury program and doesn't know whether he will ever coach at the high school level again.

"I have a junior daughter and a ninth-grade son," he said. "When they leave, who knows? It kind of depends on where they go and what they do.

"I'm getting my coaching fix with my son, and right now the most exciting thing for me is getting the emails telling me where I'm reffing next. I'll think, 'Great, I get to go to Jefferson next Tuesday, or Lakeville North, and run into people I know.' I'm happy that I stumbled into this."