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Larry Luitjens



The state's winningest boys basketball coach, Luitjens has won more than 70 percent of his games over 36 seasons, most of them at Custer. His career record (entering the 2005-06 season) is 617-249. In 29 of his 36 seasons, his teams won district titles. He has coached one unbeaten team (Custer, 25-0, 1990) and five others that had only one loss. Seventeen times he has guided his team to the state tournament. Thirteen of those times his teams have reached the finals. Seven times his teams have won state titles. No coach at the Class B or A level can match Luitjens' state-tourney feats. The 1960 Britton High and 1965 Northern State grad began his coaching career at De Smet. He coached De Smet for four seasons, guiding the Bulldogs to a 90-16 record and three state-tourney appearances, including a runner-up finish in 1969 and Class B titles in '70 and '71. He coached one year at New England (N.D.) St. Mary's, going 19-4. His team lost in the district tourney on a Saturday night and he was relieved of his coaching duties the following Monday. Luitjens, who played for Coach Bob Wachs at Northern, sat out a year and never wanted to coach again, but Britton coach John Bruce got him to do some scouting and he was hooked again. A pastor in Custer who had officiated his wedding urged Luitjens to apply for the open position at Custer. He has been at Custer since 1973, leading the Wildcats to a 508-229 record, 14 state-tournament appearances and five state titles in 31 seasons. In a 16-year stretch from 1988-2003, Luitjens' Wildcats reached the state Class A tourney 10 times, finishing first five times (1990, '92, '93, '98 and '02) and second three ('89, '91 and '03). He was a finalist for national coach of the year in 1998. He was a nominee for the national award in 1982, '89 and '90. Luitjens was inducted into the South Dakota High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1988. He received Northern State's first Jim Kretchman Award for excellence in athletics in 2002.


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