|Lauhead Era coming to a close|
|Written by Wauneta Breeze|
|Thursday, 19 May 2011 17:04|
Longtime Wauneta-Palisade basketball coach steps down after more than three decades
By Josh Sumner
The Wauneta Breeze
One of the most decorated coaches in Wauneta-Palisade history is calling it quits. Roger Lauhead is stepping down after his 20th consecutive season as Lady Broncos basketball coach.
“I debated this decision an awful lot,” said Lauhead, who will be participating in the school district’s early retirement incentive program. “This wasn’t an easy decision, because I still really enjoy coaching.”
With roots reaching as far back as the late 1970s, Lauhead has served Wau-Pal Schools — and Wauneta Public School before that — in several capacities over the years.
Lauhead’s first stint as girls head basketball coach lasted four years in the early 1980s, and was followed by a run as boys head basketball coach in the late 1980s. He has also served as an assistant varsity football coach and as the head junior high football coach for several years, before taking the job as head varsity football coach for one season in 2009.
Still, it’s been Lauhead’s most recent 20-year run as girls head basketball coach for which he will be best remembered by people in southwest Nebraska.
The run began during the 1991-92 basketball season, in which Lauhead was taking over a team that had gone 6-8 the year before.
Just two seasons later, Lauhead had improved the team to 14-4, and coached them to their first-ever appearance in the state basketball tournament in Lincoln.
During Lauhead’s 20-year run as girls head basketball coach, he accumulated a dazzling 317-119 record — good enough for a winning percentage of 72.7. He made nine trips to the state basketball tournament in Lincoln, and was head coach of the state title-winning team in 1997.
His resumé also includes 13 subdistrict championships, nine district championships and eight conference tournament championships.
Lauhead recalls his 1997 state-winning team that went 24-1.
“I was happy to win the championship, but more than anything, I was relieved,” said Lauhead. “When you go to state and you run into those teams that live 20 miles from Lincoln, and meanwhile we’re staying in a hotel, it makes it tough.”
A combination of bad luck, good competition and other factors kept his teams from winning more state championships during their nine visits to Lincoln, said Lauhead. He added that he believes he had the best team in the state on at least four or five occasions.
Lauhead, who graduated high school from Elwood, Neb., in 1964, before receiving his college degree at then Kearney State College, recalls noticing promise in Bronco athletes upon his arrival to Wauneta.
“I noticed right when I came here that the school had good athletes, but they didn’t always compete as well as they should,” said Lauhead. “I mean, they competed hard, but the team unity wasn’t really there.”
Developing the athletic skills of young people is where his relationships with his players has traditionally began, but that’s not where they usually end.
“I can’t always keep track of where everybody’s at, but a lot of my players have gone on to be real successful,” said Lauhead. “Sometimes I get letters or pictures from them, and I enjoy that. Sometimes they stop in at the school to visit me. It’s been rewarding being a positive influence as a coach and teacher.”
For the man who will go down as the most successful girls basketball coach at Wauneta-Palisade to date, choosing to walk away from the sideline has been no easy choice.
It’s the little things that Lauhead said he will miss most. He said one of his favorite parts of coaching is the moments leading up to a game, when his team prepares to take the court in front of the hometown fans.
“At home games, before we go out on the floor, it’s really fun,” said Lauhead. “There’s something that’s just exciting about that atmosphere. We talk about what we’re going to do, and what we’re going to try to do, as a team.”
Lauhead said this season’s heartbreaking loss at the hands of Brady in the district championship game influenced his decision, in that it made him want to return to try to get the Lady Broncos back to state. He added that he believes the team has the talent to do it.
“I think we could get back to the district finals, and have a good shot at making it to Lincoln,” said Lauhead. “It’s not a shoe-in, but a state run is certainly possible.”
Lauhead submitted his letter of resignation to the Wauneta-Palisade administrators on April 18. Although not likely, because the school is actively searching for a replacement as girls basketball coach, Lauhead could be back.
Lauhead left the door open for a return to coaching by writing in his letter of resignation, “...if the high school girls basketball position remains unfulfilled, I would be happy to take that job again.”