It was a pleasure to be in attendance when 1970 Creston High School graduate Steve Blazek was inducted into the Iowa High School Athletic Association Basketball Hall of Fame Saturday night during the Boys State Tournament.
You see, my final story as a member of the Atlantic News-Telegraph staff in the summer of 1984 was about the hiring of Sutherland coach Steve Blazek as the new basketball coach. He seemed like a nice guy, and I told him I’d now be covering one of his rivals as a writer in Creston.
That’s when I found out he was a former Panther. In fact, Rollin Dyer was a teacher and coach in Creston when Blazek was in elementary and junior high. As luck would have it, Dyer was athletic director at Atlantic when Blazek applied for the Trojans’ job.
“I’m sure it was to my advantage that I knew Mr. Dyer, and he had a son (Bob) in my grade in school,” Blazek said.
And, Blazek said one of his primary coaching influences was Bill Baldwin, his coach for three years at CHS.
“He was pretty deliberate offensively,” Blazek said. “He made sure he had the kids shooting the basketball that he wanted shooting the basketball. There was a lot of discipline.”
That discipline came into play during his first job at Newtown-Harris, Mo. The team’s center was lost with a dislocated kneecap, and hit a slump. But he put in a 1-2-2 halfcourt trap defense, and they caught fire and avenged an earlier defeat to beat Green City for the right to go to the state tournament.
In the first round they were matched up with perennial powerhouse Glasgow, ranked No. 1 in the state.
“They had finished in the fop four of the state 11 of the previous 13 years,” Blazek said. “We went to a 2-3 zone, slowed the game down, and ran four backdoor cuts against their aggressive defense for laypus on the first four plays of the game. They got nervous and went to a zone. That fell right into our hands. We ended up hitting two free throws with four seconds left and won the ballgame. We could have played those guys 100 more times and never beaten them again. It was just one of those things. We had really smart kids.”
The point guard on his state third-place Atlantic team in 2002, Alan Jenkins, has succeeded him as head coach. Alan is the son of Nancy and Don Jenkins, who was a state championship girls coach during Blazek’s time in Atlantic.
“Don was a great coach, and he had such a run of talent there for about 10 years,” Blazek said. “There were some years his girls team was bigger than our boys team! One thing we fought in Atlantic was, we never had any size.
“Alan will do a great job with it,” Blazek added. “He’s a hard worker. I know he had some offers in Omaha when he was working in Council Bluffs. I really pushed for him to get the (Atlantic) job. He’s kind of an old-school coach.”
Blazek and wife Tammy now live in Lee’s Summit, Mo., to be near their daughters and two granddaughters.
“The one regret you have in this business is that you’re so busy raising other people’s kids, that you are away from your own kids a lot,” Blazek said. “At the time, you don’t realize it as much. But that’s a big reason whe we’re down there now.”
Blazek, 62, said he hasn’t ruled out a coaching gig of some kind, like a freshman team. But he’s probably done with the varsity scene.
“I just don’t want to to it 12 months anymore,” he said, “and you have to, to do it right.”