It's not often that two high profile people in a community decide that they are going to step away from their roles on the same day. Oshkosh Area United Way Executive Director Sue Panek was the first to say she was retiring on Thursday. Then came the announcement later in the morning that Oshkosh North High School Boys Basketball Coach Frank Schade was leaving the bench. Since Sue is going to remain in her position for another year and a half--and with the United Way even beyond that, we will save our accolades for her until then.
I joked yesterday that Coach Schade finally made good on his threat to make "this year the last year". Forty-two years is a long time to do anything--and especially at as high a level as Frank did with the Spartans Basketball program. And Coach Schade wasn't one of those "just roll out the ball and let's play" type of coaches. He was a grinder--always working his kids (and the officials) from tipoff to the final horn--so every game night was stressful.
While the record may show that Frank retires as the fourth-winningest boys basketball coach in state history, his real measure of success should be the quality of young men that his program produced over the years. In my dealings with Spartans players--both as a broadcaster and as a referee--I found them to almost always be very respectful of those they played against and everyone involved in the game. And while winning gold balls and other trophies look nice in the display case at the school, it's what those kids do after they leave Oshkosh North that is a far greater legacy.
Now the challenge for North is to find the right person to carry on those traditions. Many a powerhouse has faded away after the legendary coach moved on. I would refer you to Manitowoc Lincoln Football, Clintonville Basketball and both football and basketball at Brillion. Sometimes you have a coach that is somehow able to get more out of talent than everyone realizes until they aren't there anymore.
So good luck to Coach Schade as he spends more time playing golf (I saw him just a few days ago out at Lakeshore Municipal) and as he gets to spend some time during the winter in a place that is sunny and warm--instead of in a cold gym.