The privilege of witnessing history
Published: Thursday, March 6th, 2014
When I interviewed Custer High School head basketball coach Larry Luitjens the Monday after his final home game as head coach, I asked him his thoughts on knowing he would never coach another game at the Armory. I expected a gushing, emotional response, but instead I got classic Coach. He said the reception he got was nice, the presentation was nice, but that the finality of it all hadn’t really sunk in. He was more interested in talking about how the team had played.
After talking to Coach on the phone or in person every Monday for four months of the year for the past 14 years, I should have known the response he would give. Always more worried about the team than himself. Right after he announced his retirement, I did a story on how this season was to be his victory lap. When I called him, he didn’t even know how many career victories he had. I had to tell him.
When a man has coached basketball for 45 years, I suppose you can’t be expected to remember every little detail of your career, even if you’re the all-time wins leader in state history. Forty of his years have been spent at Custer, although one of those years, he did not coach. That’s longer than I have been alive.
“Coach,” as I refer to him when I call him or see him, was one of the first people I met when I moved to Custer. I quickly learned Custer was a basketball town and Luitjens was the face of the program. When I landed this job, My friend who graduated from St. Thomas More (yes, I know, but he’s a good guy so I don’t hold it against him) told me all about Coach and his dynastic teams of the early ’90s, so I already knew a little bit about the legend before I ever met him.
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