2021 – Larry Luitjens
Larry Luitjens is the winningest coach in South Dakota High School basketball history with 748 wins. His teams appeared in 17 state tournaments; winning seven championships and six runner-ups. Larry coached for a total of 47 seasons; forty-five as a head coach and two as an assistant. He hopes that when people remember his career, he will be remembered more for teaching kids about life, than teaching them how to make a layup or free throw.
Kurt Venekamp (Custer grad 1977) says, “The demands Coach placed on the team to develop a winning attitude were solid. Character, accountability to yourself and your teammates, discipline, humility, confidence, loyalty, and most of all a strong work ethic, were incorporated into every practice. We were not the most talented athletes that he would work with over his illustrious career, but we understood the value of hard work. Always striving to be in better shape than our opponents. Practices were demanding, physically and mentally. Every minute was scheduled. I can remember taking a look at the outline of the practice before we began. Each section a lesson in and of itself, taking a bunch of kids, a bunch of individuals, assessing each one’s ability and molding them into a team. A team, that down the stretch of the season would know how to handle every situation, thrive under pressure, and ultimately win when it meant the most. I remember, no matter the situation, no matter how far behind, no matter how it had gone so far, coming into that huddle and knowing coach had a plan. Not always winning, but always expecting to!
The lessons of Coach, both on & off the floor, carried into adulthood for me. Probably the greatest asset is the ability to struggle, to fall, to get bloody and bruised, yet to get up, put on a great attitude, and be ready to meet another day and another challenge head on, always expecting a great result. Always expecting to win. On & off of the floor the lessons of Coach will live on for me. I believe Coach L would be the first to admit, we are all flawed at some level. That life can be challenging. It does not always go our way. But if we can get to our feet and meet the challenge of the coming day, we will come out with so many more wins than losses and ultimately, we will finish well in the game of life.
Thanks Coach, for going the extra mile, for believing in each of your athletes, and for a life well lived!”