Longtime coach Les Davis died on Tuesday in Tulsa. He suffered a stroke at a grandson’s wedding on Saturday.
Davis has 316 wins in football, third in state history behind Clifton-Clyde’s Ed Buller and Silver Lake’s C.J. Hamilton.
Below is the text of a story Duane Frazier wrote about him in 2005, shortly before he retired. I also included what I wrote about him when he was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
Les DavisWichitaWhen Les Davis retired as the Sedan football coach after the 2005 season, he had 316 victories, second in state history.He was done with coaching.Over the next two years, though, his son, Criss, repeatedly asked him to come back and be his assistant at Caney Valley.“That’s (Sedan’s) strongest rival,” Davis said. “That’s a hated name around Sedan. . . . I told him I wouldn’t coach against Sedan. I still feel real loyal to Sedan. I coached for 38 years, great years. I just don’t want to coach against them. Of course I wouldn’t want to get beat, but I wouldn’t want to beat them, either.”But when the 2008 district assignments were announced last fall, and Sedan wasn’t in Caney Valley’s district, Criss called again. Davis, 75, accepted and is now an assistant.“It’s an adjustment to have your son tell you what to do,” said Davis, who graduated from North High and Friends University. “I was always scared of overstepping my bounds; I’ve never been an assistant. It’s worked out great.”Davis’ two other sons, Randy and Mark, also coach high school sports.This is the fourth hall of fame induction for Davis, who also coached baseball and basketball at Sedan. He’s in the Wichita Sports, the Friends University and the Kansas America Softball Association halls of fame.
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By Duane Frazier
The Wichita Eagle
Life was supposed to be a lot simpler for Les Davis this season. Dan Lankas had the same idea.The two veteran coaches were planning on being in the midst of well-des erved retirements.They had paid their dues, between them more than 70 years of head coaching experience and more than 530 victories.Retirement seemed like a nice plan.Yet, there they were on Friday night. Standing on their sidelines, coaching another high school football game.Davis, Sedan’s longtime coach, was leading the Blue Devils to their second straight win in a 36-22 victory over Douglass. And Lankas, an Atwood native, was leading his Buffaloes against Oakley in a 28-6 loss.So what gives?Maybe retirement just isn’t in their blood.Davis, 72, had insisted the 2004 season was going to be his last. He was tired, he had surpassed 300 career wins, and he wanted to enjoy a little more time fishing and hunting.But he never left.“I kind of got talked back into it again,” Davis said. “I won’t say it anymore, but I’m sure this is going to be it.”Lankas managed to step away from the game. At least for a while. He retired following the 2003 season and spent last year as the school’s athletic director.Then Atwood, which is now known as Rawlins County High, suffered through an 0-9 season.The new coach was soon gone, and everyone turned their attention to Lankas. Within a few weeks, he was back on the job.“It wasn’t a tough decision, really,” said Lankas, 58. We’ve got great kids, so it wasn’t that awful hard.”Not many Kansas high school coaches have lasted as long as Davis and Lankas.Davis, a North High and Friends University graduate, has collected 310 victories during his coaching career. The last 35 years have been at Sedan. He’s No. 2 on the state career win list behind Ed Buller’s 335 victories.Lankas, a former standout lineman at Kansas State and three-year veteran of the NFL, has spent the past 20 years in Atwood.He’s won 228 games as a coach, No. 19 on the career list, and he led Atwood to three consecutive titles in 1989, 1990 and 1991.Lankas said he was prepared to leave football, and his timing seemed right. He underwent knee replacement surgery after the 2003 season, and he thought a break might be good.Sitting in the stands, however, was harder than he thought.“I didn’t interfere at all, but it was tough to watch,” he said. “You always think about the way you would do things differently. I kind of missed it.”It didn’t help that Lankas still saw most of his former players every day at school.“They were always coming into my class and talking to me about it,” he said. “They all wanted me back.”Atwood won its season opener last week for its first victory in nearly two years. Lankas said he probably wouldn’t have left if he knew how successful his knee replacement was going to be.“It felt much better than I expected,” he said. “I really thought I would have a tough time getting around. I think I can probably do this quite a while now.”For Davis, retirement still sounds enticing. Then again, he’s been saying it for years.He used to coach football, basketball and baseball. Twelve years ago, he cut his schedule to just football and basketball.He’s retired from teaching, but coaching keeps him busy.“Football is really time consuming,” he said. “You used to never worry about film or anything like that. Now, a lot of your spare time is spent looking at film well into the night.”Davis owns 249 acres of land near Sedan, and he built a house near a pond. He got married in June and he spends most of his time at his country home.“I spend as much time as I can out there,” he said.But Davis can’t imagine too many more football practices in the future.“I still like the games, and I enjoy the kids,” he said. “But I have to stop some time. I want to be able to fish and hunt. And I just want to relax.”Davis promises that’s going to happen soon. For Lankas, it may be a while longer.And for a pair of Kansas towns, the fans get to hold onto their legendary coaches just a little longer.