Since he’s in the news, now seems like a good time to share one of my favorite college stories.
As you can read elsewhere in this section, the Union Area Chamber of Commerce’s Outstanding Young Person for 2018 is Dan Rettke. It’s quite the honor and I congratulate Dan.
Dan is a good dude and there’s a lot of reasons he won this recognition. Not mentioned in his award presentation was one small accomplishment that I will always think of when I think of Dan — rec league basketball player/coach.
Let’s flash back to the year 2008. Dan and I were both students at the illustrious Truman State University. We were both Franklin County kids doing journalism at Truman so our paths crossed a lot. I spent a lot of time working on the student newspaper while Dan was doing the same on the TV side.
I think we both lived in the media center. To top it off, we both covered sports so we had plenty of shared interests.
One day Dan came to me with an idea. There was some student media beef going on that was, in hindsight, pretty dumb. Dan came up an idea to show some unity: basketball.
Dan suggested the sports staffs from the newspaper, TV and radio team up for a basketball team. His idea was to get a bunch of people who liked covering sports and talking sports together for a few games of rec league basketball.
Since I was the newspaper sports editor, he wanted to know if I’d join the team and recruit my staff. I told him it was a terrible plan because I have zero basketball skills.
Dan assured me that everyone would be equally bad and it would be fun to play a few games. So, I agreed and coaxed some newspaper writers to play as well.
Our team name was the Ballers and boy were we bad. It was laughable then and laughable now, but in a funnier way.
At our first game Dan was all fired up and ready to go. We actually had some size and some guys who looked the part. Dan took over the role of coach and gave us our marching orders.
Everything fell apart almost instantly. It became clear that we had some guys on our team who had never played basketball and might have never heard of it.
One player, who shall remain nameless, didn’t know he had to inbound the ball after a basket. He grabbed the rebound and just started running up the floor.
We were down by a lot quickly and getting torched on every defensive possession. During a stoppage, I remember Dan trying to coach us up. He suggested instead of a man-to-man defense, we switch to a zone.
It was a good idea, in theory, except for one minor problem. Out of like the eight guys on the team, only about three of us knew what zone defense was. We ended up getting smoked in every game we played. The league had a 30-point mercy rule and we only made it to the second half one time.
Dan was easily the best player on our team, which is really meant to be a compliment even though it sounds like calling him the fastest turtle. He showed up for every game, which is more than I can say about half the team.
He kept coaching and helping out the guys who had never played basketball. And, to top it all off, he led the team in points. It wasn’t a lot of points (like I said, we were terrible), but he was our leader.
Really, the whole goal of the team was to just have some fun and hang out with people who have similar interests. Despite losing, it was mission accomplished.
In the moment, I wasn’t really a fan of all the losing, but the experience has aged well. I think back on it and laugh about just how goofy the whole thing was.
It’s a fun story and I have to thank Dan for his part on it. Your record was 0-3, but you were the best rec league basketball coach I ever had. Congratulations on the award, Dan.