Updated 12:50 p.m. Tuesday
Kent Kroupa has always trusted his gut and his heart.
And this week, both told him it was time to step away from the Whitnall boys basketball program after 20 years as head coach.
“It’s been a privilege and honor to coach at Whitnall,” Kroupa told Patch Tuesday afternoon. “Whitnall will never leave me. When you’re involved with something so long, it’s always going to be a part of me. You do it so long, it’s part of your blood.”
Kroupa was a special education teacher at for 32 years. He spent 20 of those coaching the boys basketball program, including three seasons that ended at the state tournament. His 1988 squad won the WIAA Division 1 championship.
He also coached basketball for eight years at Muskego, where he coached his sons Brad and Craig.
This year’s club, Kroupa’s last, .
He finished his career with a 335-279 win-loss record, including more than 300 victories at Whitnall, where he was also the school’s softball coach for 10 years and led the Falcons to the program’s only state tournament appearances in 1995-96.
Kroupa said he and his wife Linda have long intended to move to the Phoenix area where they have family and friends, and when their youngest son Craig got a teaching and coaching job in Arizona over the summer, it made Kroupa’s decision to walk away that much easier.
, including two on the varsity.
“That definitely was a factor in the decision, him moving to Phoenix,” Kroupa said.
Kroupa said he was afforded great opportunities at Whitnall, both in teaching and coaching. His goal every year was to touch one of his players in some capacity and make him a better person, with the hopes that player would pay it forward.
“The student-athletes I had the opportunity to work with, that’s why I stayed with it as long as I did,” Kroupa said.
There was never a day Kroupa didn’t enjoy coaching, and he will miss the interactions with students, staff and administration. And while he likely will be remembered as a firm and fair disciplinarian, he hopes his legacy goes beyond his actions and successes on the court.
“I went by the simple formula of ABC: academics, behaviors and court,” Kroupa said. “Watching players grow from little boys to fine young men, to be able to be some part of their life, that was important to me. We have had a lot of successful student-athletes that I was able to coach, too many to name. …. Those things, it had nothing to do with winning and losing. We were able to produce good human beings.
“I hope the lessons we taught along the way, they’ll remember and use.”
And don’t for one second think that Kroupa’s coaching days are done for good.
“I can’t say that I won’t coach again. I’ll see an ad in a newspaper down there and might give a school down there a call,” Kroupa said, only half-jokingly. “I’m getting better (at coaching). I’m learning more about kids, and I’ve adjusted to the times.”
Kroupa said he and Linda joked that he could wind taking marching orders as Craig’s assistant someday. Or maybe it wasn’t that much of a joke at all.
“That’s a possibility,” Kroupa said.
Whitnall athletic director Rick Elertson said the program will move fast in replacing the veteran leader, but knows whomever comes in will have big shoes to fill.
“He put this program on the map,” Elertson said. “He’s been the face of this program for so long. … We’re not interested solely in winning games. We’re not sending kids to the NBA. We’re sending kids out to be solid citizens. Kent was a coach who prepared men for life. He knew that was important to him, to prepare kids for life outside of basketball. That’s what we’re looking for, a guy who knows the game but more importantly who knows how to get young men ready for the world, like Kent.”