The first couple of basketball is calling it quits. Randy Rahe, the best basketball coach most of you never heard of, formally announced his retirement at a press conference Tuesday morning, although it had already been widely reported. Rahe showed up with his wife Laura by his side. She retired too — as a long-time Division I basketball referee and Weber State teacher.
“This is about us,” said Rahe, meaning the presser was not just about him.
Basketball was the centerpiece of the Rahe family. He coached basketball for 37 years, 16 as head coach at Weber State. She was a referee for 30 years and also taught classes at Weber State.
The couple discussed basketball during their daily morning walks. He had daily practices and two games a week; Laura worked two games a week, always on the road. He studied video to evaluate his team’s performance; she studied video to evaluate her own performance. They asked each other for critiques. Their courtship began — of course — at a basketball game; he was scouting a high school game and spotted her in the coaches box. “It shows I can recruit,” he liked to say. They married and raised two sons, who were Weber State ball boys.
“Laura is a lot better at her job than I am at mine,” Rahe told reporters Tuesday.
If true, then that is saying a lot. Rahe is one of only seven Utah coaches to win more than 300 games at an in-state university — 316 of them to be precise, the most in school history. He won a Big Sky Conference record 198 league games. Weber State is overshadowed by other D-I schools in the state, namely Utah, BYU and Utah State, but Rahe quietly went about the business of building winning basketball teams.
He was an assistant coach for more than 20 years before he got his first head coaching job, the only one he would ever have, as it turned out. He was an assistant under the redoubtable Stew Morrill for 13 years, at Colorado State and then at Utah State. He was an assistant at Utah when Weber State hired him as head coach.
His teams won at least 20 games in nine seasons — including last season — advanced to the NCAA Tournament three times, and won five conference titles. His teams hit their stride during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, when they totaled 55 wins against 14 defeats. His most notable player was future NBA superstar Damian Lillard.
“It (the job) consumed me for 37 years, 24/7, 365 days a year,” says Rahe. “It never leaves your mind.”
The retirement urge came on suddenly. He and Laura were vacationing on Hilton Head Island after weeks of recruiting. He thought about the next step — soon he would begin preparing for the summer program for his players, and he realized, “I didn’t feel the same way about it. I didn’t have the same passion and excitement. I always said if I lose any of that, I’ll know it’s time to go.”
|Coach||School||W-L||Years||Win %||Conference titles||NCAA appearances|
|Stew Morrill||Utah State||402-156||1998-2015 (17)||0.72||7||8|
|Vadal Peterson||Utah||385-230||1927-53 (26)||0.626||5||2|
|Stan Watts||BYU||371-254||1949-72 (24)||0.594||8||7|
|Jack Gardner||Utah||339-154||1953-71 (18)||0.688||7||5|
|Rick Majerus||Utah||323-95||1989-2004 (15)||0.773||9||10|
|Randy Rahe||Weber State||316-191||2006-22 (16)||0.623||5||3|
|Dave Rose||BYU||301-131||2005-19 (14)||0.697||4||8|
He talked it over with Laura. Finally, she asked, “What do you think?” He replied, “I think I’m ready to be done.”
At the relatively young age of 61, he was ready to walk away from a game he had pursued for close to 50 years as a player and coach. Laura decided to follow him into retirement. She, too, has been around the game for decades, as a player, coach and referee (she even taught university basketball classes).
She grew emotional during Thursday’s dual retirement announcement. “It’s hard,” she said. “I’ve loved both of my jobs.”
They are a good team on and off the court. Rahe wasn’t above taking his wife’s advice about his team, as noted in a 2020 Deseret News profile in which the coach says, “She’ll watch a game and see something. She might say, ‘This guy’s not doing what he’s supposed to do.’ Or, ‘You should think about this guy.’ And she’s almost always correct. Her opinion is not something I take lightly. Sometimes I might not want to hear it, but I listen anyway. She understands the game and the guys.”
Looking back, Rahe says, “I wanted to run a program the right way.” He wanted to follow the myriad NCAA rules, graduate players, build character, develop relationships with his players. He said he felt good walking away from the job knowing he had done just that. “Sometimes this business can make you sacrifice your integrity,” he says.
“More than being the winningest coach in Weber State and Big Sky Conference history, Randy Rahe has exemplified running a program with integrity,” said Weber State president Brad Mortensen. “With Coach Rahe at the helm, we have always held our heads high.”
The Rahes haven’t determined what they will do next beyond a trip to Italy. “Now we get some time to figure out what we want to do from here,” he said. “ … now it’s our time.”