Basketball has taken Bill Kackley all over the United States during his lifetime.
After a number of stops along the way as a player and a coach, he has since settled down in Washington, Mo.
“We love Washington. We’ve lived in the same house here since February of 1978,” Kackley said. “We’ve been all over, but Washington is our hometown.”
Kackley, who turns 75 in March, is best known in this area for his days as head coach of the East Central College women’s basketball program. He was an accounting instructor at ECC.
Kackley was a member of the first class inducted into the ECC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2011.
Under the direction of Kackley, the Lady Rebels of ECC took to the basketball court for the first time as a club team during the 1979-80 season.
“It was the girls who really got it started,” Kackley said. “They went to the administration. The college had men’s basketball, softball and volleyball at the time.”
And women’s basketball was added to the list.
“The administration knew that Bill had a basketball coaching background. They asked him to take it on, and he did,” said Pat Kackley, Bill’s wife of 52 years. “He took to it very well. We still stay in contact with several former players.”
Despite coaching only boys basketball in the past, Kackley was not one to back away from a challenge.
“At the time, it was hard for me to say if I would enjoy coaching the women’s team or not,” Kackley said. “Things worked out. The kids were wonderful. There are a lot of fond memories.”
And the transition from coaching boys basketball to girls basketball?
“I found that girls listen a lot better than guys do,” Kackley said. “Guys think they know it all. I really enjoy the teaching aspect.”
As anticipated, the 1979-80 ECC club team struggled through the basketball season.
“We were so bad,” Kackley said. “We had lost all of our games and scheduled Harris-Stowe at the end of the year, and we beat them.”
On that first team was Dot Schoening, who also played softball at ECC and recently retired as the principal at Gerald Elementary,
Also on the team was Sabrina (Richardson) Light, the wife of former Borgia athletic director and current Helias girls basketball coach Doug Light.
“We had eight players on the team,” Kackley said “Dot was a point guard and probably our best player.”
Things improved for the Lady Rebels in the years to follow.
“The 1980-1981 season was our first real season as a college team. We won more games than we lost,” Kackley said. “The 1981-82 team had one returning player back and went 17-7. We beat Lindenwood, Maryville and Fontbonne that season. Maryville was our first game of the season and we won 71-28. We had a lot of girls from the area on that team. That was a good group.”
Many of those 1981-82 players returned for the next season, helping the Lady Rebels to their first-ever Midwest Community College Athletic Conference championship.
Kackley’s team never advanced past the regional round, but had its opportunities.
“Our 1993 team had a great chance to do something special,” Kackley said. “In our last game of the regular season, three of our starters went down with injuries. We then lost to Three Rivers, who we beat twice during the regular season, in regionals. If that team would have remained healthy, we would have had a great chance to beat Moberly for the regional championship.”
Kackley has many fond memories from his ECC teams.
“There was one season where we lost to Jefferson by over 30 points twice and then went over there and beat them in the regionals on a last-second shot,” Kackley remembered.
The ECC women’s basketball program was cut in 2001, which still upsets Kackley today.
“It just wasn’t a good way to treat the kids. Our whole team was signed for the next season and a lot of them already had arranged their housing,” Kackley said.
“Thanks to Pat, who was the school’s financial aid director at the time, the administration decided to honor all of the players’ scholarships. Pat always was a big part of the program. To a lot of the players, she was Mom. I retired from teaching the year before the program was eliminated and finally was going to have time to recruit. It was very disappointing.”
Kackley, who never had a paid assistant coach, only volunteers, spent 19 years as the Lady Rebels’ head coach spanning from 1979-2001. There were three years during that time where he didn’t coach the team.
Overall, Kackley had a career record at ECC of 343-208. He was the Region 16 coach of the year in 1991 and 1993 and led the team to a second-place regional finish in 1991.
The Lady Rebels won MCCAC championships in 1983, 1991, 1992 and 1993.
Overall in his coaching career, Kackley posted 478 victories.
Needless to say, the elimination of the women’s basketball program provided free time for Bill and Pat.
“We did a lot of traveling. We’ve been to Europe four or five times, Costa Rica and all 50 states,” Kackley said. “At one time, we had been to every Major League Baseball stadium. There since have been some new stadiums built that we haven’t seen.”
Kackley, who also spent time as the ECC athletic director, grew up in Enterprise, Kan. He attended Enterprise High School for three years and then Hays High School during his senior year.
A standout basketball and football player in high school, Kackley had opportunities to play both sports in college, but had his heart set on playing basketball at the University of Kansas.
“I had an offer to play football at OU (Oklahoma University). Bud Wilkinson (head coach at the time) flew me and my dad there for a visit,” Kackley said. “Kansas State offered me a scholarship for basketball. But it was KU for me all the way.”
Without a scholarship offer, Kackley walked on at Kansas.
It was in Lawrence where Kackley met and played with one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Wilt Chamberlain.
“I played on the freshman team. I was a freshman and he was a sophomore, so we were never teammates. Freshmen could not play varsity basketball at that time,” Kackley said.
“I practiced against him. I was 6-7 and he was 7-1, so we battled each other a few times. He was 7-1 and had a 42-inch vertical jump. I remember one time I went up for a hook shot against Chamberlain and the ball ended up on the other side of the court. That’s when I knew it probably wasn’t the place for me.”
Kackley, who said he’s been 6-7 since the eighth grade, played one season with the KU freshman team and decided to leave the program. He later returned to KU and graduated in 1966.
He’s still a big Jayhawk fan these days.
“We have football season tickets. We were there this year until the bitter end,” Kackley said. “It’s hard to get to a lot of basketball games because they’re so expensive and we’re busy during the winter.”
Kackley served in the U.S. Army from 1958-61. While stationed at Fort Devens, Mass., he met Pat, who hails from Boston, Mass.
“Pat and I met at a teenage dance. I asked the tallest, prettiest girl to dance and that was Pat,” Kackley said. “We got married in 1960 while I was in the Army. Our honeymoon was in Paris and Germany, where I was stationed.”
After graduating from KU, Kackley began his career coaching boys basketball and teaching business.
His first job was at Aquinas High School in Fort Madison, Iowa, coaching basketball, baseball and cross country. He was there from 1966-68.
Kackley then spent one year as an assistant basketball coach at Highland High School in Riverside, Iowa.
From there, he spent the next five years as a head coach of basketball, baseball, track and cross country at Oxford Junction High School in Iowa.
“I had six weeks off during the summer and that’s about it,” Kackley said. “It was a busy time.”
Upon receiving his master’s degree at Bowling Green University in Ohio, Kackley then took the family to Albion, N.Y., where he worked for two years as a high school head boys basketball coach.
“We enjoyed New York,” Kackley said. “We lived between Buffalo and Rochester. That’s a great part of the country.”
From New York, the Kackley family then moved to Missouri and Bill began his career at ECC.
“I started teaching accounting in 1977 after teaching high school business. I really enjoyed teaching accounting. It’s what I wanted to do,” Kackley said. “I went to ECC without a coaching job. The opportunity to teach accounting in college drew me there.”
Kackley remains busy during his retirement days. He currently is a member of the Washington Park Board.
I’ve always wanted to do something like this. Dick Stratman (former Washington mayor) called and asked if I wanted to be on the board,” Kackley said. “I enjoy it very much. We’ve got a lot done over the last few years. It’s too bad we don’t have more money. The parks are what attracted us to Washington.”
Kackley also currently is a volunteer assistant coach for the girls basketball team at Washington High School under head coach Adam Fischer. His granddaughter, Rachel Kackley, is a junior on this season’s varsity team.
“I started with the Junior Jays and have just worked my way up. Last year was my first season on the varsity bench. I go to all the practices and also work on statistics,” Kackley said. “I really enjoy it, especially this year. Adam is a good coach. A lot of times when he says something to the girls, I’m thinking the same thing. It’s really neat to be around Rachel and all the girls on the team. They’re a bunch of great kids.”
Bill and Pat have three grown children; Bill, Theresa and David. Bill and Theresa are high school coaches. They also have nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Kackley hopes to remain as a Washington volunteer assistant basketball coach even after Rachel graduates. Coaching basketball is what he does.