HULL, Iowa | Jim Eekhoff, the longtime boys basketball coach at Western Christian High School, signed-off on an email to members of his team and their parents on Thursday, informing all he was retiring from basketball at the conclusion of this season.
Eekhoff, 65, will direct his 18th Western Christian boys basketball team to the Iowa Boys State Basketball Tournament next week. The top-ranked Wolfpack have a first-round Class 2A contest against Carroll Kuemper at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday in Wells Fargo Arena.
Eekhoff, an athletic director and teacher at the school the past 14 years, said he emailed members of his team and their parents late on Thursday to let them know about travel and lodging details related to the state tournament.
"I wanted them to know what they should bring and what they should wear, things like that," Eekhoff said. "And then at the end of the email, I just said I'm going to retire."
Eekhoff had decided a couple of years ago that this would be his 38th and final academic year at Western Christian, where he has also taught social studies and business classes. For a while, he considered staying on as basketball coach. That idea, however, lost out to the prospect of joining his wife, Sylvia, in retirement full-time.
"We'd like to do some traveling," he said, mentioning that fact that one of their three children, daughter Leah Pollema, resides in La Jolla, California. As a retiree, it would be much easier to slip away to California for a visit and some golf.
"I do like to golf," he added. "But I will do something else in retirement. I cannot golf my life away."
Eekhoff, a native of Kanawha, Iowa, was introduced to Western Christian High School during his time as a student at Dordt College. Following his 1972 graduation from Dordt, he taught for three years at a Christian school in Oskaloosa, Iowa. Eekhoff then came to Sheldon, Iowa, where he taught at Sheldon Christian, a feeder-school for Western Christian.
Thirty-eight years ago, Eekhoff began assisting with the high school boys basketball program at Western Christian. He became head coach of the boys team when Gene Hospers moved from the boys to the girls program.
Both Western Christian programs (boys and girls) have been highly successful on the hardwood. The Wolfpack girls played on Friday night for their fourth state title in five seasons. The boys remain in contention for their eighth state crown, all under Eekhoff, whose seven state titles has him tied with the late Paul Moon, who directed Davenport High School (now Davenport Central) to seven state championships in boys basketball for most in the state's history.
Eekhoff's 18th state tournament appearance will tie him atop that head coaching category with Mitch Osborn, head coach at Harlan High School.
"I will miss our assistant coaches and the relationships with the kids," Eekhoff said. "The people here are such good people. I've been very fortunate to be surrounded by such faith-based people at Western."
Eekhoff's Wolfpack, 22-2 on the season, face an 18-6 Kuemper Knights team on Tuesday in the opening round. Eekhoff's career record stands at 678-143, a ledger that includes a glossy 33-12 mark in the state tournament.