Walters State women's basketball coach Dave Kragel retires after 43 seasons

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MORRISTOWN Tenn. (WVLT) -- After an historic 43-year run as the head coach of the Walters State women's basketball team, Dave Kragel has decided it's time to hang up his whistle and clipboard.

Kragel announced his retirement Monday night, effective June 30th.

Long-time assistant Jasmin Coleman will serve as interim head coach for the Lady Senators for the 2020-21 season and a national search is planned for Kragel's successor next spring. Kragel had gone back and forth on the decision for most of the season.

"I'll be 66 in August and I thought I'd like to spend some time with grandkids and my wife (Sharlene)," Kragel said. "I haven't had a real Thanksgiving or Christmas in a long time. I would always take off on Christmas and go recruiting. Thanksgiving, we'd always be playing in a tournament somewhere. My grandkids are of the age that I can't go and watch them play like I would like to. It's all been weighing heavy on me. It seemed like the thing to do."

It was an historic season for the Lady Senators. In spite of not reaching the NJCAA national tournament for the first time since 2011, they did claim the TCCAA regular season title. Kragel, already the winningest women's coach in NJCAA history, notched his 1,000th career coaching victory on Jan. 15 at Roane State. He finishes his Hall of Fame career with a 1,009-281 overall record and plenty of hardware including 15 Eastern Division Championships, 16 Region VII titles and 11 TCCAA conference crowns. Under Kragel, the Lady Senators made the NJCAA national tournament 16 times.

"It's an unbelievable amount of wins, I'll admit to that," Kragel said. "The thing is, the kids that have played for me have bought into what I wanted to do. This year, we had a tough start, but the kids got better and better as the year went along. We ended up winning a championship as a result. We just didn't have enough folks for the region tournament. But no one got to go to the national tournament."

Kragel isn't leaving the cupboard bare. With just three sophomores exiting the program, Coleman will be reloaded when the NJCAA season sparks up again.

"This year's basketball team, we just ran into some injury problems and some discipline problems," Kragel said. "It took us out of a shot of going to the national tournament. There's a good nucleus of kids coming back and it's a good opportunity for Coach Coleman to step in and recruit a few kids that she might like and keep it rolling."

Kragel's legacy as coach of WSCC women's basketball program and the school will be lasting.

"It is hard to overstate the impact Coach Kragel has had on Walters State athletics during his 43 years as a coach," Walters State President Dr. Tony Miksa said. "He has played an important role in establishing Walters State as a perennial powerhouse among the TCCAA and the NJCAA. He'll leave a lot of banners hanging in the gym."

Current WSCC athletic director Derek Creech got his start at the school as an assistant on the men's basketball team under coach Bill Carlyle. He's seen firsthand the impact Kragel had on his players.

"What Coach Dave Kragel has accomplished at Walters State can only be admired," Creech said. "He built the women's basketball program from the ground up in his 43 year tenure. I would like to thank Coach Kragel and his wife Sharlene for all they have poured into Walters State athletics during his illustrious career."

Kragel spent Monday afternoon on the golf course, social distancing in the best way. It's the first free afternoon of many to come. Once the world returns to some kind of normalcy after the current shutdowns and quarantines of COVID-19, he looks forward to actually getting to enjoy sports as a spectator, specifically watching his grandchildren play.

"I'm blessed," Kragel said. "I'm been very blessed with my teams and my family. My wife has been an awesome coach's wife and I'm looking forward to taking some vacations with her and doing some traveling. And I've got grandkids, here in town and in Kentucky, and I want to see them play."

So how does Kragel view his legacy at Walters State? Until Monday, it hadn't crossed his mind.

"I guess it's to have done everything I possibly could for all the kids that played for me," Kragel said. "I wanted them to get scholarships and go on and continue their education. And hopefully the discipline that I stressed all the time helps all of them in their lives when they leave Walters State and go on to somewhere else. And 1,009 wins? That's pretty phenomenal."

With the torch passed, Kragel now has time to enjoy his family, his hard-earned retirement, those missed Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas get-togethers. But there's still a coach there, who prowled the hardwood for 43 seasons. That fire hasn't gone away just yet, even if Kragel knows this is for the best.

"I'm going to miss the kids and the competition, the ballgames," Kragel said. "And I'm going to miss practices, because that's where my teams would get better. A lot of people think you get better by the games. You get better by the practices and getting your kids to do what you want them to do. I couldn't ask for anything more. It's great to have been at a school where people care."



 
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