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Randy Rahe: A giant among men

WSU basketball head coach Randy Rahe during a game. (Photo by Lichelle Jenkins/ The Signpost)
WSU basketball head coach Randy Rahe during a game. (Photo by Lichelle Jenkins/ The Signpost)

There is an old biblical adage stating that one shouldn’t judge a man by the height of his stature, but by the character of his heart. One look at Randy Rahe, head coach of the men’s basketball team at Weber State University, and you would never guess that he is a giant among men.

“To get where I wanted to be in life, it has taken a lot of hard work and dedication,” said Rahe. “That’s why my harshest critic is myself. Before the blame falls on anyone else, I start with me. When I have done that, then I am better able to help others learn and grow.”

Coach Rahe is a native of Bancroft, Iowa and after high school he became a two-sport athlete at Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, Iowa. While earning his bachelor’s degree in elementary education, he played as a point guard for the men’s basketball team and as a second baseman on the baseball team.

His first stint as a coach was at Stratton High School, a small school with an average of 70 students. He had seven players on the basketball team his first year,  and despite the heavy odds against him, Rahe was able to go on and become a two-time coach of the year recipient, leading the school to three consecutive championship appearances.

He was offered a job as an assistant coach at several local colleges before he was hired by Stew Morrill, former coach at Colorado State University. That started a 12-year relationship with Rahe following Morrill from Colorado all the way to Utah State. During his time with Morrill, Rahe was part of a team that posted a 143-48 record in a six-year span.

“The coach I am today is all because of (Morrill),” Rahe said. “When he hired me, it was really my last chance to be a college coach. Without (Morrill), I would never have come to Utah. I never would have had the opportunity to coach here at Weber State.”

After assisting at The University of Utah for two seasons, Rahe was chosen to be the head coach of the Weber State University men’s basketball team. His first season he had three starters return, and despite that, he lead the team to a 20-12 record and a berth in the NCAA tournament.

As of the 2013-14 season, Rahe has a 169-86 winning record with the Wildcats, the best in WSU history. In the Big Sky Conference he is third all-time in career conference wins, and fifth overall in total wins by a Big Sky coach. Throughout his career, he has coached 25 all-conference athletes and five Big Sky MVP players.

One of the more famous products of Rahe’s coaching is current NBA star Damian Lillard. Lillard was recruited by Rahe and not only ended his junior season as the Big Sky MVP, but Lillard was also the first Wildcat to be named to an all-american team. Lillard, after three seasons at Weber State, opted to enter the NBA draft and was drafted sixth overall, the highest a player has ever been drafted from WSU.

“The reason I played college ball, and made it to the NBA, is (Rahe),” Lillard said. “When I first met him, he was straightforward and honest with me, and I knew that if I wanted to succeed that he was the coach who would help me excel. He was willing to step forward and tell me what I needed to hear and not what I wanted to hear, and that has made me better.”

Even as a professional basketball player, Lillard still looks to Rahe for help and advice.

“Whenever life gets tough and I am just frustrated, he is one of the first people I call,” Lillard said. “He has always known how to help me stay focused, and I am so thankful for everything he has done for me. I am the man I am today because of him.”

Many of Rahe’s players are also thankful for his straightforward, honest manner. WSU senior James Hajek has played for Rahe for four years, and said Rahe’s honesty is what has helped him grow.

“He cares about each and every one of us equally,” Hajek said. “He won’t sugarcoat anything about our performance, but will help us to see the problems and overcome them.”

For Rahe, surrounding himself with greatness has helped him to become a giant among men.

“I am so thankful for my family, the amazing kids I have coached, all my assistants and the administration for their continued support of me,” Rahe said. “Because of them, I am a better person. Without their support, I wouldn’t be here. It is because of them I am here.”

Rahe and the Wildcats will close out the season on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Dee Events Center when they host Eastern Washington University.

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