CLINTON — Together they have 75 years of coaching experience at their respective high schools, each about 25 miles from Clinton, but in opposite directions. They’ve never met, but if their combined career records weren’t evidence enough, Dan Beck and Don Robinson have proved something this season.
“We can still coach,” Beck said. “We can’t play, but we can coach.”
Last week, Robinson put an exclamation point on his 37-year coaching career at Prophetstown by leading his team to a runner-up finish in the Illinois Class 2A girls basketball state tournament.
Next week, Beck is taking his first Easton Valley team to the Iowa Class 1A boys state tournament.
“It’s the year of the orange,” Beck said, noting a primary color for each school.
Though Easton Valley is in its first year, Beck has been in the same place for 38 years — Preston. Before the consolidation with East Central, he guided Preston to the state tournament three times.
“First year — I’m young again,” Beck said after the River Hawks defeated Danville 55-33 last Saturday in the substate game that put them into the state tournament. They open against Keota at 10:30 a.m. Monday.
Despite the time the coaches have put into basketball, the game certainly hasn’t passed them by.
“For me, it hasn’t seemed all that long,” Robinson said. “From teaching and coaching and the response of the kids, I haven’t seen much change (in players throughout the years).”
Prophetstown put together the best season in school history this winter, going 31-3 and finishing second to Champaign St. Thomas More. It was the Prophets’ first trip to the state tournament and the first time one of Robinson’s teams reached the 30-win plateau.
But, there were plenty of wins before this season.
Robinson’s career record at the school is 674-319, the sixth-most wins in the history of Illinois girls basketball and the most by an active coach.