Jim Trahern has decided to step down from coaching at Kit Carson. The long-time boss made the announcement to the administration and his players after the state basketball tournament at the end of March.
Trahern led the Wildcats for the past 35 years and made numerous state tournament appearances including this season. Kit Carson ended up third after falling to eventual state champion Holly in the semifinals in the triple overtime. State championships were collected in 2007 (beat Hi Plains 58-36) and 2004 (Beat Eads 59-44).
On Saturday night, those who played against him, with him, and for him showed up to what was originally approached as a roast of the coach but turned into a night of memories for those in attendance. “It was a happy night and it was a sad night,” was the sentiment of Gerald Keefe, longtime Kit Carson administrator who was Master of Ceremonies for the evening. “What I came to realize is that Jim has probably touched thousands of lives…at least exponentially.”
Based on the number of people who were there and who spoke about the impact Trahern had on their lives, Keefe may just be right. There were the basketball officials like Ty Rushton, Don Compton, and Dick Peecher who called numerous games while Jim challenged them at every shrill of the whistle. Those officials ribbed Trahern about the time they were in Kit Carson and noticed how all his photos on the office wall were lined up as straight as an arrow. They thought that was a little anal until they saw his pencils lined up exactly in a row. “But,” Peecher said, “Your kids always knew the rules, and as an official I appreciated that.”
There were the coaches who competed against Jim for years. Gail Crawford from Eads stated, “Whenever we played Kit Carson, I didn’t care if we were 50 points ahead, I never took a relaxed breath until the final buzzer because I knew Jim had a way of getting his kids back into a game…every darn time.” Crawford went on to offer a peace gift to Trahern saying he was now welcome into the Old Man’s Golf League. Kerry Sayles, long time Hi-Plains girls’ coach, remembered the time she called Jim to ask him for a fast break drill. By the time Jim was done with her she had a whole binder full of basketball drills she could use. Then there were players of Jim who went on to be coaches and had the fortune, or misfortune, of coaching against him. Shawn Randel who coached against Jim at Eads and then McClave spoke sincerely about the influence Jim had on his style of coaching and how it has stayed with him to this day. Randy Wilson, head coach at Wiley, described a recent moment that will always stay with him. Jim’s Wildcats beat Wilson’s Panthers at the state-qualifying regional game this past March and Jim hugged him and said, “When you win you should feel great, but this one doesn’t feel very good.”
Then, of course, there were a number of the Wildcat coaches who coached with him. Jason Dechant thanked Jim for his tutelage and said it was an honor to hold down the fort during the year Jim did not coach basketball so he could watch his son, Ty’s, senior year of college ball. “Jim was the most supportive person I’ve ever known.” Dechant played for Jim in the late 1990s and early 2000’s. He was one of many of Jim’s past players who were in attendance. There were the players from the 1980’s, the 1990’s teams, the 2000’s teams where he won two state championships, and even his current team and future Wildcat players were on hand to give honor to the Chief.
Both of Trahern's sons are in the high school coaching profession, as well, with Jake at Burlington and Ty at Fort Morgan high schools. Both sons spoke about the lessons their father taught them both on and off the field of battle. Jake, who was on the 2004 state championship team, assured the crowd that his dad was still giving out lessons as just the other day they were playing pick up 1-on-1 and Jake was worried he might hurt the old man until Jim gave him an elbow in the chest just to wake him up. Ty, a member of the 2007 state championship team, told an entertaining story about how as a freshman in football he thought his dad was all-knowing so when they were playing Otis and Jim had told his team if they, the Bulldogs, started barking like they sometimes did, that the Wildcat team had his permission to bark back. Of course, Jim was being sarcastic, but Ty, and actually a couple of other freshmen, confidently started barking at the Otis team. Boy did they get teased by Jim and the upper classmen.
Imagine if you will, the real impact a person like Jim Trahern can have on an entire community, and even the region of Southeastern Colorado. And not just for one generation, but for multiple generations, even the one not yet born. When you look at it that way it becomes obvious that one person, one very special person, can positively touch the lives of thousands.