Succeeding a legend
Paul Kelley replacing Larry Luitjens as Custer boys basketball coach
Published: Thursday, May 29th, 2014
For well over 30 years, Larry Luijtens was Custer High School basketball.
With multiple state championships and the most wins in the history of South Dakota basketball, replacing Luitjens as the head man of the Custer program will be no small task. However, it’s a task Paul Kelley is ready to embrace.
Kelley, who has assisted Luitjens for the past eight years and once played for Luitjens as a Custer High School student, has been named the new head coach of the boys basketball team. In being hired as the team’s new coach, Kelley said he has fulfilled a dream.
“Being a Custer boy, being someone who has had generations grow up in Custer, this is where I wanted to come back to,” he said.
Kelley, 44, played four years of high school basketball for the Wildcats, starting for two and helping the team win a conference championship his senior year in 1988.
Kelley went on to play basketball as a freshman at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, Minn., and attended the school for two years before finishing up his schooling at South Dakota State University.
Kelley began his coaching career out of college in Willow Lake, coaching the boys team there for two years and the girls team for seven, finishing as state runners-up with the girls team four times. Kelley has also coached seventh and eighth grade girls at Willow Lake, and was the head coach of the Hill City boys basketball team for five years before coming to Custer. He is also head boys golf coach for Custer, and teaches social studies at the high school.
When he first got involved with the Custer boys team it was as a volunteer, helping Luitjens out wherever he could.
“A lot was player development, just giving my opinion on things,”âï¿½ï¿½Kelley said.âï¿½ï¿½“Give coach Luitjens a lot of credit; for a guy that has the career that he achieved, the status he has achieved, he was always open to our opinion as assistant coaches. It gave me a lot of respect for the guy.”
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