Imagining that Don Racine would be the Bishop Carroll girls basketball coach for, well, ever never seemed too far-fetched.
Wednesday, though, Carroll announced Racine’s resignation after 33 seasons.
“I’ve enjoyed it. For me, it’s the best place for me to be coaching,” Racine said. “…All good things eventually come to an end. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Good, bad, indifferent. The kids are great, the administration, the families. I loved it all.”
He is the league’s winningest girls coach with 565 victories. Racine (565-180) won five league titles, 16 regional championships and the Class 5A title in 2004.
“I do think you kind of think he’ll be there forever,” said Kristen Weselowsky, who played basketball and softball for Racine before graduating in 1998. “His time had to come, but it is very surprising. He’s been such a fixture over there for so many years. It’s sad to see him go.”
Racine, 67, is the third high-profile league coach to resign since March, following Southeast’s Carl Taylor and East’s Ron Allen, who both coached boys basketball. Racine will continue to teach physical education at Carroll.
“He was the second guy I met when I moved to Wichita,” said Northwest girls coach Jim Mernagh, who was the Carroll boys coach from 1999-2005. “We’ve been pretty good friends since. We’ve done traveling together for basketball camps and clinics; so many stories we could share. What a good friend, first of all, but what a good coach and a good person.”
Carroll senior Jana Reichenberger added: “(Racine) was a great coach, in my opinion. He knew what he was talking about, he knew what to do in different situations…. It won’t be the same, Carroll basketball.”
Racine and Carroll basketball have been linked for so long, it has been easy to consider Racine as being Carroll basketball. Carroll had three coaches in the previous seven seasons of the program’s history.
Racine had just one losing season (1981-82) and two .500 seasons (1982-83, 1986-87). He finished third in 5A eight times and second twice.
“It will be different not to see him on the sideline,” Carroll athletic director Larry Dostert said. “… With him being a fixture, it’s going to be hard for someone to come in and take over his program. This is how it’s been done for 33 years.”
Racine generally came across as a gruff man, often barking out instructions to his players during games and practices.
But he was well-liked and respected, with former players returning to see him through the years.
“When you first meet him and you first start playing for him, it’s extremely intimidating,” Wesolowsky said. “But the more you get to know him, he’s just a teddy bear. We had a close relationship. He was an excellent coach and fun to be around and a funny jokester kind of guy.”
What Sarah Balderas, who graduated in 2011, continues to appreciate about Racine’s coaching is what she learned.
“He taught us so much more than basketball,” said Balderas, who plays softball at Newman. “To be on time, to listen to directions. Because if you didn’t do something right, you would be told. Now that we’re in college, that stuff he taught us has helped so much…”