As a high school math teacher for more than five decades, Calvin College alumnus Dick Katte was all about numbers.
But on the court, as a basketball coach for 48 years, numbers weren’t his game.
So he finds it surprising that his win total—876—made him the winningest coach in Colorado high school basketball history.
“It’s amazing that it happened,” said Katte, who was on the sidelines of the Denver Christian High School basketball court from 1964 to 2012.
“I never had a goal to reach a certain number; I just wanted to go to work and help young people every day.”
Those who know Katte, though, are grateful that the legendary coach has shared some of his expertise in his recently published book,Over Time: Coach Katte on Basketball and Life.
The book is a compilation of biographical information on Katte, from his upbringing in Sheboygan, Wisc., to his battles with a brain aneurysm and cancer. It includes basketball strategies, his philosophy of coaching, his memories of individual games and championship seasons, and how to raise up young people of character.
“Writing the book was a good process for me,” said Katte. “Most of it was pretty easy to recall. And though I didn’t always see why something happened at the time, I always had something good to take away from the experience.”
Such was the case in Katte’s second run at a state championship in 1972. (He won his first in 1970.) In the championship game, Denver Christian was up by double digits in the fourth quarter.
“I told [my team] to slow it down, pull Eaton out of their zone and make them guard us,” he wrote. “Well, we never could get going again, and we lost by a point. . . . After over 40 years, some still carry that disappointment with them, and I feel bad that we didn’t win it. It’s one of the lessons from life: about how you deal with adversity.”
Indeed, Katte himself benefited from this lesson when a brain aneurysm nearly took his life in 1984, and nine years later, when he battled cancer.
“My setbacks helped me become a better coach because it humbled me,” he wrote. “I realized I wasn’t in control, and that’s the hardest thing to learn—especially for coaches. . . . Adversities are given for a purpose. How you use them is up to you.”
Following those trials, Katte would go on to win three more state championships, including one in his final season.
For Katte, one of the biggest lessons in the book, and a message he discloses frequently, is “bloom where you are planted.”
“What that always meant to me was that I didn’t have to change schools or ‘move up’ the coaching ladder to receive fulfillment as a coach. Each person must have a mission and vision to become the person God gifted him to be.”