‘Honored and privileged’: Randy Rahe retires at Weber State; Eric Duft named new men’s basketball coach
Weber State head coach Randy Rahe guides his team during the second half of play against Sacramento State on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, at Dee Events Center in Ogden.
Montana head coach Travis DeCuire, left, and Weber State head coach Randy Rahe laugh before facing off in a Big Sky Conference tournament semifinal game Friday, March 15, 2019, at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho.
Weber State head coach Randy Rahe guides his team in a huddle during the second half of play against Sacramento State on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, at Dee Events Center in Ogden.
In this Aug. 29, 2015, photo, coach Randy Rahe and former Weber State star Damian Lillard talk while coaching a team during the WSU Alumni Classic at the Dee Events Center.
Weber State head coach Randy Rahe guides his team during a second half timeout while battling Southern Utah in the Big Sky Championships quarterfinals on Thursday, March 9, 2017, at the Reno Events Center in Reno, Nevada.
One week ago, Randy Rahe and his wife, Laura, were enjoying a vacation in Hilton Head, South Carolina, catching a break between the bulk of offseason recruiting and the oncoming summer workouts in June.
“It just kind of hit me,” Randy Rahe said.
The winningest coach in Weber State men’s basketball and Big Sky Conference history is hanging it up.
Rahe has retired as Weber State’s longest-tenured head coach, the school announced Monday afternoon. And his 16-year assistant, Eric Duft, was simultaneously named as his replacement, the program’s 10th head coach since joining Division I in 1963.
Rahe came to a realization when he thought about the start of summer camp, one he always knew would signal this decision.
“I’m usually very excited but … it just didn’t feel the same. And I always told myself that if I lose even a little bit of that passion and that excitement for everything, and I can’t be 100% all-in, that tells you it’s time,” Rahe told the Standard-Examiner. “I’ve been doing it for 37 years and I’ve been consumed by it for 37 years. It’s 24/7, 365 days a year, it never leaves your mind. Now it’s time to spend time with Laura and go have some fun. She’s supported me through this whole thing and now it’s time for me and her and go have some fun while she still likes me.
“I gave everything I had. I think we worked extremely hard, and my wife can attest to that … we gave it everything we had to have success and do it the right way, and the culture of our program has been strong for 16 years,” he said. “That’s something we worked really hard at and I think that’s enabled us to have success.”
Rahe retires just shy of his 62nd birthday with an overall record of 316-191, and a 198-85 mark in Big Sky Conference games, each the most wins in league history.
“Weber State has great tradition, so I’ve been honored and privileged to be the coach here. I took the job, that responsibility, seriously, and one thing I feel really good about is running a program the right way, with character and integrity,” Rahe said. “We graduated players, we brought great kids into the program, we never had a kid in the news for screwing up … and we tried to do it the right way. We didn’t break the rules, and it’s hard to do that anymore in this day and age … and just maintained the integrity of the program.
“And Laura and I got involved in the community heavily. We tried to give back as much as we could, and we feel good about that.”
Laura, too, is retiring. The basketball referee has also spent 16 years supervising student teachers, teaching basketball classes and more at Weber State.
“We’re very much at peace with it and ready to start a new phase,” Rahe said. “She’s been as dedicated here as I have so this isn’t just about me, it’s about her, too. And she’s a lot better at her job than I am at mine. So we’re together on this, and it’s both of us.”
Once the thought of retiring came up one week ago, he and his wife shared several glasses of wine over several conversations. Ultimately, he said he felt good about it being time to hang it up, returned to Ogden and met with university administrators to begin the process.
Rahe was hired to head Weber State’s program in 2006 after several years as an assistant coach at Utah and Utah State which followed stops at Denver and Colorado State. He immediately took the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament that season.
He coached Weber State to five Big Sky championships and was named Big Sky coach of the year four times.
“More than being the winningest coach in Weber State and Big Sky Conference history, Randy Rahe has exemplified running a program with integrity,” Weber State University President Brad Mortensen said in a news release. “With Coach Rahe at the helm, we have always held our heads high. On behalf of the university, I sincerely want to thank Randy for being a model coach and the contributions he’s made to Wildcat basketball and all of Weber State.”
The Wildcats would make the tournament only two more times in the next 15 years after Rahe’s first campaign, the main blemish on an otherwise stellar career, unprecedented in the conference and one that saw scores of players go on to professional careers.
Rahe was also known as a sage on campus for other head coaches navigating their jobs, most of which came to WSU as first-time head coaches.
Rahe’s message to his current team: “I told them how much I loved them and how much I appreciated them trusting us to come here and how much I hoped they have success here,” he said. “I always considered Weber State basketball to be bigger than any one person, me included, so I just told them I hoped they keep building … I appreciate them and everything they did for me, and all the hard work they put in.”
Duft, 49, takes over after coaching under Rahe as an assistant coach for all 16 seasons, including the last 13 as associate head coach.
“Couldn’t think of anyone that deserves it more!! Your time Duft!!!,” tweeted Kellen McCoy, former Big Sky MVP player and assistant coach under Rahe and Duft at Weber State.
Duft, a native of Sterling, Kansas, has held strong connections to basketball in the Midwest, including the bustling junior college basketball scene in his home state. Duft coached for 10 years at Hutchinson Junior College, Cowley County Community College and Central Community College before joining Rahe’s staff at Weber State. He was head coach at Central for one season in that stretch.
Rahe said after a couple days of meeting with administrators, he felt Duft was going to be named his replacement so he waited to tell his team until they could consider that finalized.
“We wanted the players to have that transition so when I talked to the players today, I was able to tell them that Eric’s going to be the next coach, and (Eric) Daniels and (Jorge) Ruiz are staying, to ease their minds right away,” Rahe said.
The Iowa native and former small-college baseball player said he’s always a phone call away for Duft and will be glad to support him.
“But Eric’s his own man. He’s going to do a great job. He’s ready — he’s more than ready — for this,” Rahe said. “So I told him just go out and be you, be yourself. And he’ll do that. But I’ll always be here for him. It will be an easy transition.”
Duft is married to Sherri, a physical therapist. They have four kids: Jaret, who plays men’s basketball at Colorado Christian University; Halle, who plays women’s basketball at Missouri-Kansas City; and Easton and Kourt.
“We are excited for coach Duft to begin his tenure as the head coach at Weber State,” athletic director Tim Crompton said in a news release. “His high character and passion for the game bode well for building the next phase of success and championships at Weber State.”
With assistant coaches Daniels and Ruiz remaining on the coaching staff, Duft’s first orders of business will be to finalize the recruiting class and hire an assistant coach.
Weber State currently has 10 of its 13 scholarships committed for next season, likely needing one guard and two big men to round out the roster.
Many of WSU’s current players reacted to the news by posting a photo of themselves with Rahe and no caption, but simply with the purple heart emoji.
Former players also reacted to the news of Rahe’s retirement on social media.
“Great career! Greatest coach in Big Sky history,” Damian Lillard tweeted Monday. “Thankful to have been a part of his program! The most solid.”
“Thank you for everything coach Rahe! I learned a lot from you in my time at Weber,” the program’s all-time leading scorer, Jerrick Harding, posted to Instagram. “Definitely a legend and had a hell of a career! Best coach in Big sky history! HOF!! Love.”
“Love and appreciate u coach, believed in me (for real),” 2020-21 guard Isiah Brown posted on Instagram. “U a rare one solid as they come!!”