Thursday, November 15, 2012

Retiring A.D. took KCKCC cage teams to national prominence during coaching days


In the 13½ years before becoming Director of Athletics, Dan Pratt took Kansas City Kansas Community College basketball to national prominence.

In 1989, the Blue Devils led the nation in 3-point goals while finishing 20-12 without one of the top seven scorers standing taller than 6-foot-4. The leader, 5-10 Maurice Lamar, also led the nation with a Jayhawk record 161 3-point goals that earned recognition in Sports Illustrated.

Earlier that season, the Blue Devils also set a national record with 56 3-point attempts against Hutchinson; made 21 of 47 from 3-point range in a 122-113 overtime loss to Garden City, a game called by many the greatest ever in the Jayhawk Shootout; and ended Independence’s record 56-game home Jayhawk Conference winning streak with a 102-97 overtime win as Lamar scored 29 point second half points to erase a 51-41 halftime deficit.

“My biggest win ever and maybe the biggest ever at KCKCC,” said Pratt, who is retiring as Blue Devil Athletic Director Dec. 1. “You just don’t go to Independence and win.”

The second winningest coach in KCKCC basketball history, Pratt compiled a 206-196 record in 13 seasons before stepping down after the 1998-99 season to succeed retiring Athletic Director Duane Shaw.

Taking over a basketball program that had only one winning season in the previous nine years, Pratt’s first three teams finished 22-10, 22-10 and 20-12.

“Then we started playing a tougher schedule,” laughs Pratt.

Countless standout players passed through those years and if pushed, Pratt’s all-time best would include Lamar and James Davis at the guards, Bryan Scott and Bobby Harris at the forwards and Henry Thomas at center.

“But then that would leave out players like Mike Hynes, Louis Jones, Sam Lars, Corey Shelby, Charles Parks, Mark McQuillen, Desmond Clifton, Rodney Towles, Brad Cleaver, Sebastien King and others.”

Pratt’s biggest accomplishment, however, is an unprecedented record of virtually every sophomore who played for him receiving an offer to continue their basketball careers at four-year colleges.

“And most of them played elsewhere,” says Pratt. “I can only think of one or two who chose to go in a different direction.”

Pratt’s accomplishments in nearly 14 years at athletic director aren’t as visible, not withstanding the addition of women’s soccer, a new floor in the Field House, improved softball facilities and the major reconstruction of the baseball, soccer and track complex now underway.

“The most significant change has been in the status of our coaching staffs,” he says. “We split up volleyball and softball and they both have full-time coaches. We also have full-time coaches in track and soccer; have added a full-time assistant trainer; and increased pay to our part-time assistants by more than 400 percent. We’ve also increased travel options, making charter buses available to coaches instead of them having to drive vans or a bus.”

In order to make those changes, Pratt has spearheaded fund-raising from $40,000 a year to $150,000 for scholarships through rental of the Field House and numerous other projects.

While he won’t be around for the completion of the athletic complex reconstruction, Pratt it’s his time to step aside. “Age had nothing to do with it,” said Pratt, who is taking early retirement at age 60.

“But this summer it hit me that I had been in athletic education for 40 years and that’s enough, it’s time to do something else like spend time with my granddaughter who just turned one.”

A standout athlete in high school in West Monroe, La., Pratt was all-conference in football and basketball, ran track and earned a football scholarship at Tabor College in Tabor, Kan.

“After my senior year, the former coach at Tabor came to our high school to become head football coach and that created a connection to the new coach at Tabor,” recalls Pratt. “We had eight seniors from my class go to Tabor. It was the first year of varsity football at Tabor and we were 1-9 and that one win was over the conference champion, St. Mary’s of Dodge City, which finished 9-1.”

In addition to four years of football, Pratt played three years of basketball, ran track three seasons and played one year each on the golf and tennis teams.

“I gave up my fourth year of basketball to start teaching at Canton Galva High School in January of 1974,” says Pratt. His first full-time job came that fall at Hillsboro as football assistant and physical education teacher. His second year he added basketball and then after the third year, became head basketball and football and track assistant for two years in Henderson, Neb. “The basketball opportunity was there but the football weather was just miserable, it either rained or snowed every weekend.”

Returning to college at Emporia State to complete his Master’s degree, he also served as a graduate assistant to basketball coach Ron Slaymaker; then spent two years as basketball assistant to Casey Malek and head tennis coach at Dodge City Community College.

In 1983, he was named head basketball coach at Marymount College in Salina.

“My first season we were 24-8 and at the end of the season, the headline in the Salina paper read ‘Marymount completes worst record in history of program.’ Which was true. They had had good teams.” Within two seasons, however, Pratt could see the writing on the wall for the struggling Catholic college. “The new archbishop announced he was considering alternating all education and it was obvious Marymount was not going to survive. Three years later, it was closed.”

Well-known in Kansas basketball circles for his work in summer basketball camps dating back to 1975, Pratt was hired at KCKCC in 1986 to succeed Dale Graham, who had resigned to become coach at Shawnee Mission East High School.

Pratt left basketball coaching in 1999, “I wanted a chance to see my kids grow up in athletics and I could not have done that had I stayed in coaching.” All three, son Austin and daughters Micah and Kaitlin, had outstanding high school careers at Sacred Heart in Salina.

Austin played two years at KCKCC; Micah did not stay in athletics after being outstanding in both basketball and volleyball; and Kaitlin played four years at Northern Arizona after earning all-state honors in both basketball and volleyball.

While spending more time with his granddaughter and his wife of 15 years, the former Linda West, there are things Pratt is not going to do in retirement.

“I am not going to create a list of things I’m going to do and I’m not going to put a timeline on things to do,” he vows. “What I am going to do is nothing, at least for awhile.”