Fort Scott head basketball coach Jeff DeLaTorre finished up his final season with the Tigers earlier this month.
DeLaTorre, who started his coaching career at Yates Center High School, led the Tigers to two state championships (2004, 2005) and more than 270 wins.
We caught up with DeLaTorre to talk about stepping away from coaching after 25 years.
How hard is it stepping away from coaching?
“It will be hard because it has been such a big part of my life for a long time. I will miss working with the kids and competing against the other coaches in the area. I still enjoy it, but it feels like it is time for me to step away and have more time to concentrate on my job as Athletic Director.”
When you look back at when you started coaching, does it feel like it went by quickly?
“Extremely quick! I’ve been a head coach for 25 years but it seems like that time just flew by. I remember in my early years at Fort Scott thinking that I couldn’t wait until my sons were in the program, and then I blinked and now my youngest is getting ready to graduate! Now that I am starting to coach against former players, or coaches that I coached against when they were players, it is a reminder of how long I have been doing it.”
What has been your favorite part about being a coach?
“The relationships that I have been able to build not only with our players but also with the players and coaches I’ve competed against. It is a great feeling to see so many of the former players in our program go on and be successful in life, both in their careers and also as great fathers and husbands. We have always tried to emphasize doing things the right way in our program, so it makes me proud when I see them have success in life. I have been blessed to build friendships with so many coaches that I have competed against. Coaching is a competitive occupation, but I feel fortunate to have so many positive relationships with other coaches.”
Few coaches finish their careers with state titles, how much does it mean to you to know you’ve been able to get two?
“It’s an accomplishment that I think has meant more the longer I have coached, because you realize how difficult it is to do. It’s a little humbling to think of so many outstanding coaches that have been close but haven’t been able to quite get there. We were extremely blessed to be able to have the group we had those two years. They were a special group that doesn’t come around very often.”
Did you imagine spending most of your career in one place?
“When I took over at Fort Scott in 2000, I wasn’t really sure how long I would be there or where my career would go. Each year I coached it felt more like a place that I wanted to stay and continue to lead the program. Having my sons be around the program as they grew up was very special. They were around a great bunch of kids and role models, and being a Tiger meant everything to them. Getting to coach them for the past 8 years was very special. My family has been very fortunate to have received tremendous support from the Fort Scott community all these years. They welcomed us 20 years ago and continue to support us today.”
Do you have a few memories that stand out to you?
“So many great memories! I think back to my teams at Yates Center, and making it to the Sub-State championship game in 1999, something that hadn’t happened for awhile. The State Championship teams in 2004 and 2005 obviously gave us great memories, but I also think about our 2001 team that made it to State in 5A, and our 2002 team that won 19 straight before losing in Sub-State. In 2007 our Seniors were only Sophomores when we won it in 2005, but they made it back to the State Championship game and finished 2nd that year. That was exciting to see that group of kids have a great year. In 2012 we surprised some people and made it back to State and won the 3rd place game after a tough loss the night before, which was a great moment for that group. In 2015 we won sub-state on Paola’s home floor, which was more special with my son on that team. I also have a lot of great memories of games that we won that maybe we weren’t supposed to, and the celebrations after those games. Seeing the kids’ reactions after winning a close game after all their hard work is priceless. Getting to coach my two sons these past 8 years gave me some very special memories that I will never forget.”
What do you hope people remember about you and your program the most?
“That we ran a class program with kids that did things the right way. That no matter what our record was or how our season was going, we tried to get our kids to always play hard and play with class. We tried to emphasize that every year and hopefully other teams, coaches, fans, etc. recognized that.”
Do you see yourself getting back into coaching in the future in any capacity?
“I am not going to close the door on that right now, because I don’t know what the future will bring. If an opportunity came I would have to consider it because I still do enjoy it. But right now my plans are to concentrate on the AD job and do the best job I can to help FSHS athletics and activities continue to be successful.”