KEARNEY — There are some big shoes to fill at Kearney Catholic.
After 24 years at the helm of the Stars boy’s basketball program, Don Liess resigned Tuesday.
“Obviously we’re going to miss Coach Liess,” said Kearney Catholic Athletic Director Rick Petri. “There’s been such consistency in the basketball program for the past 20 years, not only from the high school level but the junior high level, as well.”
Liess, however, is only retiring as the Stars’ basketball coach. He’ll continue his duties as a teacher and cross country coach at Kearney Catholic while also helping out with junior high athletics.
Liess coached in what was his and his son Alex Liess’ final game when the Stars lost in the Class C1 state quarterfinal to Boone Central/Newman Grove. His plan was to coach his kids through their high school careers.
While it wasn’t publicly known that Liess would step down, there was little doubt in his mind.
“I knew coming into this season that it was most likely going to be my last,” Liess said. “My kids are done and I wanted to coach through them. There’s no real rhyme or reason why I got out. I just felt like it was time to step down.”
The move did not come as a surprise to Petri, who had several talks with Liess throughout the season regarding the decision. Petri asked Liess if he wanted to change his mind, but ultimately, the time was right.
“Don had to do what was best for him,” Petri said. “At this point of his career, he’s certainly earned the right to do that.”
A little tugging and pulling came from Liess’ family, as well.
“What’s ironic is that my family wanted me to stay in it,” Liess said with a laugh. “They were the ones that probably took it the hardest.”
Liess’ basketball coaching career ends with four state appearances, including a 2004 state championship. With the exception of the 2005-06 season when Liess took on an assistant coaching role, he’s been the face of Kearney Catholic basketball since the late 1980’s.
Finding Liess’ replacement is next on the agenda for Petri, who hopes to find a successor in the next month.
“Don has done a great job of developing kids and making them better year after year,” Petri said. “Obviously, we’re going to look for someone who can hopefully duplicate that.”
Liess’ winters will no longer be filled with practices and game film. He said he looks forward to going to future area basketball games without coaching on the brain.
He admitted he never plans to give up basketball and even suggested helping out his replacement. Liess might be hanging up the clipboard, but it will be hard to keep him away from the basketball court.
“It’s that excitement that comes with watching your kids play,” Liess said. “That’s probably what I’ll miss most is gameday.”