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Archive for Tuesday, April 27, 1999

PURDY ANNOUNCES HIS RETIREMENT

April 27, 1999

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After compiling an 84-17 record and winning five state championships, Lawrence High football coach Dick Purdy has had enough.

Lawrence High's Dick Purdy bid farewell to football on Monday, announcing his retirement at LHS.

Purdy, who compiled a 270-138-5 record in 41 seasons coaching high school football, amassed an 84-17 record and won five state championships in nine seasons with the Lions.

"It wasn't a real easy decision to make," said Purdy, the state's winningest active coach through the 1998 season. "It's the little things that make people successful, and I'd like to think I've been successful."

Why retire now?

Purdy turned 65 on April 11 and said he hadn't been doing the "little things" to prepare for the upcoming season.

"This winter we go to a lot of clinics because we want to pick up something new. I wasn't paying attention," Purdy said. "And I go through each game film (from the previous season) and re-scout it. It's April and I'm on the third game of the season. That's not dedication on my part and that's not the way I do it.

"Every Lawrence High football team since I've been here has gotten my absolute 120 percent effort in getting ready for the next season. I was putting things off."

Also, Purdy no longer would be teaching weight lifting and he had no desire to be a full-time math teacher.

"I was going to be teaching math all time," Purdy said. "I'm probably lazy. That's a lot of work. I didn't want to grade those papers all day long."

Purdy's long career started in the mid 1950s.

Fresh out of Baker University, Purdy started his coaching career in the fall of 1956 at Chetopa High in southwest Kansas. Purdy coached at Chanute, Shawnee Mission West and Lee's Summit, Mo., before succeeding the retiring Bill Freeman in 1990.

"Lawrence was the hardest job to take because Chetopa, Chanute, SM West and Lee's Summit were all looking for change and they wanted to win and they were getting beat," Purdy said. "What made Lawrence really, really hard is that nobody wanted to change or coach Freeman to leave."

Purdy quickly made the LHS faithful believe, guiding the Lions to state championships in his first four years and another in 1995. LHS posted back-to-back 12-0 seasons in '92 and '93 and had a 35-game winning streak that started in 1991 and ended in '94.

With five state titles at LHS and one at SM West in 1972, Purdy is the only coach in the state to have won six big-class football championships. He compiled a 17-3 state playoff record at LHS.

Purdy shared his success with his assistants, past and present.

"God, in His infinite wisdom, has always made sure I was surrounded by really good assistant coaches because they could bail me out on those bad calls I made," he said. "I had great relationships with those guys. They're hard workers. The Lord always protects me. He gets me surrounded by guys who really got some smarts. I'm able to rely on those guys."

Dirk Wedd has coached under Purdy since he's arrival in 1990. Wedd was surprised by the decision and believed Purdy still had the hunger to coach.

"I never saw it coming," Wedd said. "He coaches like he's 30 years old. The week before the (1998 season-ending) Olathe North game, he was coaching just as hard as he was when he was 23 years old."

How will Purdy spend retirement?

"Since I have no excuses, I'm probably going to have to share a lot more housework and do a better job on the flowers," he said. "My wife (Norma) is going to retire and she's going to see New England in the fall. And I need to work on my golf game so there is somebody who will play with me."

-- Steve Rottinghaus' phone message number is 832-7152. His e-mail address is srottinghaus@ljworld.com

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