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Hall of fame

Brad Randall honored March 9

SOLON– In 2009, Solon Head Basketball Coach Brad Randall and his team finished a perfect 28-0 season with a 55-41 win over Pella Christian in the Class 2A final to claim the school’s first boys basketball championship.
Nine years later, almost to the day, the former coach was back on the hardwood at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Randall, accompanied by his family, and with former assistant coaches and friends in attendance, was inducted into the Iowa High School Athletic Association Basketball Hall of Fame prior to the Class 3A championship game Friday, March 9.
The 2A game had just finished up, and for Randall, it brought back memories of all the times he’d been in the arena.
“In a way, it makes you want to get back into coaching, get back into that moment, get a group of kids and try to make that be your goal,” Randall said. “For a few minutes you forget all about the troubles, all the negative things.”
Instead of cold buses and irate parents, his thoughts turned to pickup basketball games as a boy, going to practice with his father, Ray, his mother, Mary Jo, the 1973 team that made Solon’s first trip to the boys’ basketball tournament and his teammates as a high school student.
Three coaches, six players and three officials were inducted into the hall of fame in 2018.
The inductees were honored with an introduction and a plaque during a ceremony at the Hy-Vee Iowa Hall of Pride earlier in the evening surrounded by family and friends, and were later presented to the crowd next door at the Wells Fargo Arena.
“It was really pretty neat,” Randall said. “It’s great to be able to share it with people who were involved in your life and your career.”
His wife Regina and daughters Maggie and Libbie were present, as were former coaches Chris Knight, Marc Foster, Miguel Villagrana, Pat Groff, scorebook keeper Jim Krob and the voice of the Spartans, Don Ellis.
“It’s kind of a culmination of all the great relationships. You’re only as good as the people around you,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to have a good family around me, good people around me.”
Randall expressed his thanks for all the students who had been part of his teaching and coaching career, as well as the community in general.
“What it comes down to, is awards are nice, but it’s the relationships with people– your life is made up of relationships, and I’ve been blessed to have a some great relationships and a lot of it goes back to teaching and coaching.”
A native of Solon, Randall’s interest in coaching started early, with his father Ray providing a strong influence.
As a kid growing up in a small town in the 1960s and ‘70s, he had the opportunity to play and have success in sports.
“I’m not saying I was good,” he noted. But he discovered the rush that accompanies competition.
“I saw that the activity could be fun,” he explained. “I think that’s part of the interest in coaching. It just was an interest and a passion, I guess, and it starts with when you play. It just kind of resonated with me.”
He was also influenced by the accomplishments of the high school students ahead of him.
“I was in sixth grade when the 1973 team went to the state tournament. And that was huge back then. I think there were only two classes,” he said. “That team was the first one in 33 years to get to state, so that was kind of a big deal.”
Despite his mother’s warning that the family didn’t need another coach, he found himself drawn in while attending college at the University of Dubuque. His career started as a sophomore when he took an assistant coach position with the seventh grade basketball team at a small Catholic school.

“You want to be a guy that leaves a legacy, that has those experiences, and then you’re there. You think about all the athletes you had the good fortune to work with, you want to thank them all, you want them to have a piece of that somehow.”

After graduation, Randall took a position with the Wheatland Community School District, where he was the head softball and girls basketball coach, assistant coach for boys basketball, junior high boys track and varsity girls track.
“I had a perfect record in girls’ basketball that year; 0-19,” he recalled.
It was there in Wheatland that he met his future wife, and the newly married couple returned in the mid-‘80s to Solon, where Randall served as an assistant basketball coach to Jerry Linderbaum.
For 11 years he coached freshman and sophomore football with an 85-17-2 record. As the girls sophomore basketball coach, he had a 98-2 record over four years.
In the 1993-94 season, the head varsity boys’ basketball coach position opened up and Randall was selected to the post. Over the next 21 years, his Spartans compiled a 368-118 record.
His program had 21 consecutive winning seasons, 10 district championship titles (nine in a row from 2005-2013), eight conference titles and four appearances in the state tournament. The team won the 2A championship in 2009 and lost to the eventual champion in each of the other trips to Des Moines. From 2006 to 2011, the Spartan boys won 48 games in a row on the road.
At the hall of fame ceremonies, people still recalled Solon’s 83-80 double-overtime semifinal win over Western Christian, he said.
“We were lucky,” Randall observed.
The Spartans clawed back from a 17-point deficit against the two-time defending champs.
“It was kind of unbelievable,” he said. “I can remember telling them at halftime, a lot of teams couldn’t come back against this team, but you guys can do it. And they did.”
Solon standout Matt Morrison had a rare miss on a set play at the end of regulation, Randall said, and at the end of overtime, he called a counter to open up center Tucker Wentzien. Wentzien was open, but Morrison missed him and instead took a good shot that also missed.
“So here we come down to the second overtime and my assistants are all saying ‘What do you want to do, what do you want to do here?’” he said. “I said we’re not going to call a play. I hope they give it to Matt and he makes it. Sure enough (Ben) Weeks gave it to Matt and he made it and we went up. Played defense for one more possession and that was it.”
There have been more positives than negatives for Randall.
“There’s not any money to be made from it,” he said. “Yes, you get some awards or get your name in the paper, but you’re going to be criticized.”
Former University of Iowa football coach Hayden Fry said you’re going to be shot at and get hit, Randall noted. “And boy was he right.”
For professional coaches, it’s a living, he said, but for high school coaches it’s more like a hobby, or a community service like serving on the city council.
“If you don’t genuinely enjoy and like kids, you can’t teach and coach for a long period of time,” he explained. “You might be able to get by, but you won’t have success, so you have to like it.”
Over his 34-year career, Randall coached softball, baseball, track and field, football and basketball at all levels from little league to varsity.
In Solon, he had a great setting that was conducive to enjoying coaching, he said. He also had some very good administrators, like Bob Lesan, Ron Herdliska, Kirk Rentschler (sp) and Larry Meister, he added.
He’s also deeply appreciative of his wife Regina and their two daughters. “It wasn’t easy for them, I’m sure,” he said.
Statistics will show one-half of one percent of players and coaches are picked for the hall of fame, he said.
“You want to be a guy that leaves a legacy that has those experiences, and then you’re there,” he said of the experience. “You think about all the athletes you had the good fortune to work with, you want to thank them all you want them to have a piece of that somehow.”