The Streak Buster

A debate always seems to rage on which streaks are the most impressive.  Brett Favre, the Green Bay (among others) quarterback, started 297 consecutive football games.  That is pretty impressive.

Probably not impressive as Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hit streak.  After all, the closest anyone has come to that record is 45.  That was by Wee Willie Keeler in 1897.  That’s not a misprint.

I think almost everyone agrees that if a professional athlete can go for over 16 years and never miss a game, that’s pretty incredible.  Iron man, Cal Ripken, pulled off that record with 2,632 consecutive games with never taking a day off.

Since I was a basketball coach, I have to mention the record of seven consecutive national championships by UCLA.  John Wooden coached those teams.  Many coaches feel an astoric or two should be placed on that streak.  That streak as accomplished with 16 to 24 teams in the national tournament, compared to 68 today.

I have a personal streak of my own.  I coached college basketball for 28 years, ending in 2011.  I have to exclude my Northwest Missouri State players since those players aren’t old enough to be part of this streak.

With social media and information available anywhere, any inaccuracies will be picked up by my former players, but I have to take that chance.  Also, I’m absolutely sure I’ll leave off a former player or two that I should be talking about.  Chalk it up to senior citizen memory.  That is my apology before I tell you about this streak.

I’ve had some great players over my 15 years at Doane College (now Doane University).  Many have gone on to have terrific, athletic families.  I’ll even go farther back than that.  I’ll bring up a couple of my high school players while I coached at Wilber-Clatonia High School. Since last names change, I’ll only use first names to avoid mistakes.  You can figure it out.

I had two Super State post players at Wilber-Clatonia.  Both were athletic, could really score and led us to a state championship.  Penny had a daughter that I think played a sport in college.  She was a great volleyball player.

Angie was the other post player.  She was so good, she started all four years in basketball at the University of Nebraska.  She still holds all the scoring records at Wilber-Clatonia.  Her daughter was a great player for Bellevue University; in volleyball.

The first player I ever recruited to Doane was Dena.  Dena married Rich, a Doane football player.  You knew their kids would be good athletes.  The oldest boy actually played a little professional ball. The second boy is an all-conference player at Drake.  The girl is only an eighth grader but has already been contacted by a NCAA I school in Kansas. Dena and Rich have a middle school boy that Dena coaches in basketball. However, to date, all of Dena and Rich’s kids are soccer players.

Mary came from the same school as Scott Frost, of Wood River, Nebraska.  She married Frankie, a Doane baseball player.  Here’s where I’m not absolutely sure, but I know their daughter and son play sports in college.  There might be another daughter in that mix, too. Frankie is a great coach, but not a basketball coach.  All their kids have gone on to play college softball or baseball.

Nikki came from Franklin, Nebraska.  I was shocked she found a man who could slow her down long enough to have a family.  Nikiki was one of my favorite players.  She didn’t start until her senior year but was named as a captain.  When a spoiled freshman complained to her about playing time, she told her, “I spent three years on the bench, so sit down and shut up.”  Nothing needed to be added by the head coach.

Nikiki now lives near Kearney.  I’m not sure about this either, but I think at least one and maybe both of her sons play either football or baseball at the University of Nebraska-Kearney.  I hope they picked up their mom’s competitiveness.

Nikiki’s best friend and roommate at Doane was Kerri.  Kerri’s girls go to the same high school as their mother, Lincoln East.  They are star athletes at East.  They are two of the best at their sport in the entire state of Nebraska.  The oldest has committed to South Dakota. Amazingly, they are cross country runners.  If I asked their mother to run back to the dorms, I’m not sure she would have been very willing.

Trudi had a chance to play basketball at the University of Nebraska, but her dad, Cliff, convinced her to sign with Doane. Trudi started every game during her four years at Doane.  Despite the running joke about Trudi’s defense (she would ask me before the game who the short, fat player was she would guard), she set a record for steals in a season and a career, beside being a great ball handler and scorer.

I was really excited for Trudi and her daughter last basketball season.  Omaha Westside was in the state tournament. However, the weekend before the state, Trudi’s daughter tore her ACL.  This does have a happy ending.  The knee has healed, and Trudi’s daughter has signed to play in college; to play soccer.

The most competitive individual I ever coached was Merri Kaye.  Merri Kay played basketball at York, but she was a great track athlete, too.  While I was recruiting her, I saw her score 28 points against number one ranked Pius X, only to lose a close game.  She wouldn’t even look at me after the game.  Her coach told me I didn’t want her with that attitude.  I wanted a dozen with that attitude.  She didn’t care about the 28 points, just that the team had lost.

Later that spring, she long jumped a career best.  She was beaten only by the overall state champ from McCook, who was in the same class.  That meant she finished second in her class (and second in the state).  Again, she barely would grunt a thanks when I congratulated her. Her dad asked me if I still wanted her. Again, I wanted a dozen of her.  She became Doane’s all-time leading scorer.

She lives in Crete and has a daughter that has graduated from college and a son in college.  The daughter played college volleyball and the son plays football at Doane.

Are you starting to pick up the theme of my personal streak?  Twenty-eight years of college coaching and not one off-spring that followed their mother into the world of college basketball.  Not a single one.  However, the streak may end.  There is hope.

Last night, I visited one of those Doane players, Erin and her husband, Patrick in Seward, Nebraska.  Erin played for the Blue Jays in high school before playing for me at Doane.  I was warned Erin may have an attitude problem like Merri Kaye and her mother, Barb, may be a handful, like Cliff (Trudi’s dad).  I signed her despite the warnings.  Erin was a two-year starter and her teams won over 100 games in her four years.

I visited Erin and Patrick because they wanted a little of advice on college recruiting.  Every once in a while, I’ll get a call from a former player asking about recruiting.  Since I’m in Nebraska on Thursdays, I paid them a visit.  They even cooked dinner.

Their son, Kelly, is a 6-7 forward or off-guard for the same high school as Erin played.  This kid is really good and getting a lot of college attention.  He is an excellent three-point shooter, can put the ball on the floor, likes to dunk, but best of all, is a great passer.

No matter how much bad advice I might have given Kelly Thursday night, I think he’s going to be my streak-buster.  This time, I’ll be overjoyed to finally have someone follow their mother’s footsteps on the basketball floor.