Comets basketball coach leaves his mark
By Greg Seubert
It’s safe to say that basketball is in Ron Weber’s blood.
Although he won’t be back for a 36th season as coach of Waupaca High School’s boys’ basketball team, he still plans to leave his mark on the program he first coached in 1978.
“I’m not stepping away from basketball,” he said. “I don’t think I could do that. Ever.”
That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that knows Weber. His brother, Bruce, recently wrapped up his fourth season as coach at Kansas State and coached Illinois to the national championship game in 2005. Another brother, David, is the successful boys’ coach at Glenbrook North High School in suburban Chicago.
Weber coached the Comets for 23 seasons until stepping down in 2001 to work on his master’s degree.
“All of a sudden, I’m seeing that I’m going to have three kids in college pretty soon,” he said. “I had to make a decision. I didn’t think it was fair to the basketball program for me to try to do both, so I took that little hiatus, went back to school and got some graduate credits.
“It was very emotional, but it was a decision I made for my family,” he said. “I had to do that. I’ve seen people do both, but I can’t split myself that way. Either I wouldn’t be doing the job in my classes or I wouldn’t be doing the job coaching.”
Weber’s replacement, Tim Locum, left after three seasons, which opened the door for a return in 2004.
“They’re searching for a new coach and I was asked about it,” Weber said. “At that point, I had three years under my belt of graduate courses and did what I set out to do. I decided to come back.”
Weber still followed the team, as his son, Nolan, played for the Comets.
“Nolan was going to be a senior and I knew that group pretty well – Wes Austin, Ryan Roloff, Kyle Hermans, Brandon Lick,” he said. “I thought it’d be pretty neat to coach these kids that I knew and to come back again.”
Weber retired from his phy ed teaching job a few years later, but the school kept him on to coach.
“I was in it for the long haul as long as I could keep going and my health was good,” he said. “I love the game and still had a passion for it.”
The early years
“It sounds trite and cliche to say it, but it’s in my blood,” said Weber, who grew up in Milwaukee. “My father was an athlete. We played all the sports and he really encouraged to play sports and be teachers. We all kind of followed suit there. It was our life.”
The long hours of teaching and coaching didn’t seem to bother Weber.
“I had such a passion for it,” he said. “I didn’t care how many hours it was going to take. I wanted to do it and I knew what it would take. You can put as much time or as little time into something. I’ve always put a lot of time into basketball because I love it so much. I always wanted to pass on the love and passion I have for the game to the kids I was coaching.”
Weber’s teams never made it to state, but three of them played in sectional semifinal games at the Brown County Arena in Green Bay.
The Comets lost to eventual Class B state champion Clintonville in 1989. Waupaca posted a 20-0 record during the 1988-89 season and went into the matchup with the Truckers with a 23-0 mark.
“We were ranked No. 1 all year long, but we knew Clintonville was looming in the sectional,” Weber said. “We got through the regional pretty easily. Sure enough, Clintonville was waiting for us and they were really good.
“They had three 6-6 kids across the line and that 1-3-1 (zone defense) that (former coach) Carl Bruggink used to play,” he added. “That 1-3-1 was really a tough nut to crack and we just didn’t shoot it as well playing in a different atmosphere. That was a tough one for the kids.”
It was another 10 years before the Comets won another regional, but Waupaca again came up short to eventual Division 2 state champion New London in a sectional semifinal. The Comets returned to sectional play the following season in 2000, but fell to Seymour, which eventually came up short in the Division 2 state final.
Still wants to coach
Weber is still interested in coaching.
“I’m going to put myself out there and see where I can help,” he said. “I think I’ve got something to offer. I’m not going to be coaching the varsity team, but I want to continue to coach. I like working kids out. I’ve done that for years now since I’ve retired from teaching. I’ll bring them in and work with them on skills and shooting and ball handling. Basketball is not rocket science, it’s not brain surgery. It is the one thing that I have to offer to other people.”
Basketball can teach life skills that other sports don’t, according to Weber.
“I can’t really pinpoint when it was, but I realized, ‘Hey, this is way more than teaching a kid how to dribble and shoot,’” he said. “Kids have to be pushed and that’s what a coach does. They’re there to push that person through that comfort zone and get them to work hard to that potential. Bad things are going to happen that you have to face and accept and keep going. That’s important because that happens to us in life, the adversity we face and the bad things that come up day-to-day. If you just give in or get too emotional about it or get angry about it, that doesn’t work. I think the kids learn that lesson.”
Weber isn’t sure what will happen this fall as the 2016-17 Comets hit the court for another season under a new coach.
“It’s probably going to be tough,” he said. “It was a tough decision, but something said, ‘I think it’s time.’ I feel it’s right. I want to keep coaching and working with kids. I’ve got to have that. That’s a part of me, but not at the varsity level.”