Langford Area boys basketball coach Paul Raasch won his 500th career game when the Lions stopped Lower Brule in double overtime last weekend. He is pictured with the Class B state consolation trophy won by the Lions last March.
LA's Raasch Gets 500th Win
By Roger Merriam
Watertown Public Opinion
After 31 seasons and 499 wins, Castlewood native and Langford Area head boys basketball coach Paul Raasch likely wasn’t too concerned that a milestone victory took a few extra minutes on Saturday.
Led by Mason Larson’s heroics, the Lions outlasted Lower Brule 62-61 in two overtimes during a game that was part of the Samaritan’s Feet Barefoot Classic at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls. Larson hit game-tying 3-pointers near the end of regulation and again at the end of the first overtime and scored the game-winning layup with seven seconds left in the second overtime.
The 500th career victory for Raasch helped him pull into a sixth-place tie with Doug Groth on the state’s all-time career list of boys basketball coaching victories. Raasch’s career record is now 500-200 in a career that has included 10 years at Alpena, 10 at Webster and the last 12 at Langford.
Just coaching, not so much the wins, is what Raasch enjoys.
“Galen Swenson (basketball) and Jerry McPartland (football) were my two high school coaches at Castlewood and I credit those guys,” said Raasch, a 1982 Castlewood High School and 1986 South Dakota State University graduate. “They made it fun and something that really appealed to me. Several of the guys I played football and basketball with at Castlewood ended up being high school coaches, in part because of them (Galen and Jerry).”
Athletics, especially the competition, have certainly been a major part of Raasch’s life. He played amateur baseball in South Dakota for 25 years, compiling a state-record streak of playing in 765 consecutive games. He was inducted into the South Dakota Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame in 2012.
Raasch has achieved the same success as a high school boys basketball coach in South Dakota. His stint at Alpena, a former Class B school, included five region championship losses and the school’s first State B tournament appearance in 50 years (1993). He then coached 10 seasons at Class A Webster before returning to Class B with Langford Area.
The Lions, who are currently 6-1 and tied for fifth in the state Class B rankings, have made seven state tournament appearances in 11 years — including state runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2015. Langford lost to White River 66-50 in the 2008 title game and to Hanson 47-44 in overtime in the 2015 state championship.
“I like the smaller-school environment, just getting to the know the kids and the families a little better,” said Raasch. “It doesn’t matter what level of basketball you’re in, coaching is coaching.”
There’s a good chance Raasch will move up on the state’s all-time wins list in the coming weeks. He needs only two wins to catch Jim Schlekeway, who compiled a 502-362 in 41 seasons.
The top four winningest coaches in state history are certainly legendary — No. 1 Larry Luitjens (748-305 in 46 seasons), No. 2 Gary Munsen (672-288 in 42 seasons), No. 3 Burnell Glanzer (617-209 in 37 seasons) and No. 4 Gale Hoover (577-217 in 34 seasons). All four have been inducted into the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.
Raasch’s focus is on teaching and helping the 2017-18 Langford Area boys basketball team try to make its way to the state Class B tournament. His years of service and milestones indicate he’s made a successful career choice.
“I’ve had a lot of good experiences,” said Raasch. “There’s been some ups and downs but overall it’s been very rewarding. Each year, I enjoy putting the teams together and seeing the kids develop and grow. If you can weather the storms and get through them, it’s been a pretty good ride.”