OSHKOSH, Wis. – To take over his father’s job as a high school basketball coach meant a lot of sacrifices for Lance Randall.
A cut in pay from his job as a promising assistant at Saint Louis University. A move back into his mother’s house. A search for a second job.
But for Randall, who made the decision at his father’s funeral five months ago, it was an easy choice.
“This has been the toughest year of my life, but also a true blessing. Not many people get to live their father’s life by following in his footsteps,” said Randall, whose Oshkosh West team is ranked No. 1 in Wisconsin’s largest high school division entering the state playoffs.
Randall’s pay went from more than $50,000 to a $4,000 stipend. He moved his wife and baby girl into his mother’s house and found a job as a fund-raiser for the Experimental Aircraft Association, all while trying to serve as guardian to his father’s program, players and family.
Every day he is reminded of the tragedy of his father’s death and the beauty of his life — and how both deeply touched so many people.
“It’s unbelievable but it shouldn’t be because Dad was such a generous man and such a wise man,” Randall said. “Even in death he’s still teaching us so much about life.”
Randall has the same locker as his father, the one with the “Coach Randall” nameplate already in place, and his dad’s set of keys.
“It seems like a silly thing but that’s the biggest reminder of him and of me growing up as a kid was being a gym rat and chasing my dad around and he’d give me the keys to get the balls out,” Randall said. “When he’d pull the keys out on a Saturday morning, I knew I was going to be going to the gym.”
Steve Randall was 53 and the picture of health — he was a biker, a swimmer, a healthy eater and a health instructor — when he died Oct. 7, a week after a surgeon accidentally cut an artery during an angioplasty the family now believes was unnecessary.
He was only 5-foot-6, but stood as a giant of a man in the eyes of his family and the community.
Now Lance Randall is doing all he can to honor his father.
His hardest moments are those just before tipoff when the gym grows silent.
“I hate coming onto the court and guys are warming up and I think about my dad and realize why I’m coaching here,” he said.
Then the ball is tipped, the noise returns, he looks into the stands and sees his family cheering.
“Then your competitive juices get going and it’s no problem,” he said. “I’m very much like my father in that he loved competition. He loved to teach and be around energy and he loved to compete.”
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