Gnatzig to retire as Whitewater High boys basketball coach

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Dave Wedeward
Sunday, February 14, 2010
— The second of two pillars in Whitewater High boys basketball is stepping aside.

Hugh Gnatzig, the Whippets’ head coach for 21 years, confirmed Saturday that he has submitted his letter of resignation, effective at the end of this season.

After starring for the Whippets in a four-year varsity career that made him the school’s all-time scoring leader, Gnatzig succeeded Ken Nehring as head coach in 1989. Nehring had held the position since 1955, now giving the Whippets only two head coaches in the last 55 years.

Gnatzig’s successor has not been named, but his son, Dan, is his assistant coach and may be a candidate for the head job.

The decision to step down from the head job may break almost a 40-year attachment to Whippet basketball for Gnatzig. Soon after graduating from UW-Whitewater in 1974, he began teaching in the Whitewater School District and has been associated with the basketball program for the better part of more than four decades.

Gnatzig, 58, said he will continue to teach driver’s education and health, and he hopes to maintain some type of relationship with the basketball program.

“I want to be able to help in some way,” he said. “I can’t just be retired and sit home. I know that.”

Gnatzig also knows he’ll miss almost everything connected with coaching at his alma mater.

“I’m sure I’m going to miss the kids, the coaches and almost everything about it,” he said. “I liked the practices and the Friday (or any) game nights.’’

Most of all, Gnatzig has liked coaching at the school that has remained close to his heart.

“I never imagined getting to coach at the school I played for,” he said, “but I’m sure glad it ended up that way.’’

But now, he is convinced it is time to end this chapter.

“The time is right,” he said. “It’s time to let somebody else take over.”

Gnatzig’s retirement comes at a notable time—the 40th anniversary season of when he led Whitewater to its greatest year.

As a senior in 1969-70, Gnatzig averaged 25.4 points a game in scoring 610 to complete a 1,608-point varsity career. All are schools records.

Whitewater went 23-1 that season, reaching the WIAA open-class sectional semifinals at Whitefish Bay before losing to Wauwatosa East, 74-71, in a battle of unbeaten teams. The Whippets came back the next night to beat Milwaukee Marshall, 89-80, for third place, with Gnatzig scoring a school-record 46 points in his final game.

Gnatzig has an 8-11 team this season, giving him a 230-206 career record. His coaching career began with five Southern Lakes West championships in six years.

Whitewater left the Southern Lakes in 2008 after 55 years as a charter member, a conference-leading 498 boys basketball victories and 12 sectional tournament appearances—a tradition that always has driven Gnatzig.

“I’ve always tried to play on the tradition we have, because it’s something we’re very proud of,” he said.

“But I like this new conference,’’ Gnatzig said of the 12-school Rock Valley, which Whitewater joined in the 2008-09 school year. “It’s very competitive.”

Much like Gnatzig throughout his playing and coaching career.

Last updated: 12:54 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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