There are names synonymous with the basketball greats. Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, last season, surpassed his former coach, Bob Knight, for the most wins in college basketball history at 903. This year, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim passed that mark as well. Although wins are just numbers, it helps us measure greatness.
One local coach is close to setting his own level of greatness. Gibault Catholic High School boys basketball coach Dennis Rueter, in his 33 years of coaching, has been a fixture on the local basketball scene much longer than most.
“I’m sure, at this point in time, when you think of Gibault basketball you think, ‘Man, he’s been there forever,’” Rueter said and laughed.
Only those such as Andy Benyo, who began coaching at Ss. Peter and Paul before it was called Gibault, and was with the school for 14 years (1955-69); former Valmeyer coach and now Rueter’s assistant, Terry Souchek, who coached the Pirates for 12 years (1985-97); as well as, Waterloo’s Larry Henson who was with the Bulldogs for 12 years (1968-80), come close.Pictured is Dennis Rueter as the new Gibault math teacher and boys basketball coach in 1980. The team was 18-8 in his first year.
Not only is the legendary Hawks coach putting himself above the rest as the longest career coach in the area, but he is soon to have the most wins, by far, in local high school basketball history.
Coach Rueter was just two wins away from 600 going into the Nashville Tournament Tuesday.
It is something his family is proud to be a part of.
“We take pride in what he’s achieved here and how we are a big part of this community at Gibault and part of this team that we’ve been around for so long,” his son and junior basketball player Jared said, with his younger brother Jacob reflecting on the reputation his father has built.”
“People always say he is really tough, but he’s a great coach and a teacher.”
Because of that, Coach Rueter says of the wonderful memories he has built, like placing second at State in 1999, what sticks out for him the most are the relationships created over his career.
“I think probably the thing that I become most emotional about is when you see and talk to kids that played 15, 20, 25 years ago and there is still a bit of a bond there with basket- ball,” Rueter explained. “We’ve had a number of ex-players help with the coaching staff. Steve Wightman—pharmacist in town, Keith Kipping is our freshman coach. Before that we had Brett Grohmann, Dan Heimos and Adam Young that helped with the program.”
“I think that is probably the most special thing.”
But coaching basketball has helped build a relationship with his three sons as well (Justin, Jared and Jacob). With his youngest, Jacob, a freshman this year, he will have coached all of his children who weren’t even alive when he began his coaching career back in 1980.
“Its really difficult for them and for me. My style as a coach, I am pretty demanding and pretty hard,” Rueter said. “I am pretty hard on everybody and harder on my own kids. They have to be able to handle that and then go home.”
His kids admit that it is an adjustment to have your father as the coach of the high school basketball team you are a part of.“
“Our family is supposed to set the example for everyone else,” Jacob said. “It is a lot harder for a freshman to set that, I’m just not as mature as everyone else. It’s just a lot harder for me than it is for Jared.”
Two years further into the program, Jared admits that having your dad as the coach can help push you to become a better player.
“He’s always been hard on all his players but I feel he’s probably been the hardest on us, seeing we are his sons and he just wants us to do our best. He has us work all the time to be the best we can be.”
For the Rueters, basketball, though hard at times, has been a way for the family to bond.
“Sometimes when I was away doing basketball things you felt like you were neglecting. Well now, frequently, that amounts to family time and Gibault basketball time is one in the same,” Coach Rueter said adding that his oldest, Justin– currently a sophomore in college– looks back and can now appreciate the relationship they built through Gibault basketball.
Now just two wins away from another career milestone, the Rueters and their Gibault basketball family look forward to sharing it together.
“Mitch Meyer said once that he’ll help him get to 600,” Jared said. “The 500th win we all wrote on a poster for him. Mitch told him he was going to help him get to 600 and he’s going to help him get to 600.”
Another thing Meyer and the team have helped Rueter do, he says, is experience those big games that used to be synonymous with Hawks hoops.
“We haven’t been quite as good the last six or seven years like we were 15, 20, 25 years ago. When we were good for quite a few years.”
“I just wanted our kids this year to play in what I consider the fun games. The big games. The atmosphere where we used to play a lot of them. They’ve now done that,” Rueter said, citing the Alton-Marquette thriller in the Freeburg/Columbia Holiday Tournament championship game, and even the Waterloo game in the semis, as big games.
“I’ ve done that, I wanted them to experience that.”
Now that coach Rueter has accomplished and experienced pretty much all that a coach could ask for through the wins, the state tournament run and the relationships, how much longer does he hope to continue?
“Twenty years ago my broth- er used to say you would be ready to quit the first of February every year because you are tired and it just kind of wears you down,” Rueter explained. “Then a couple weeks after the season is over you start talking about next year.”
“I don’t think I ever want to say ‘I’ll be done here.’ I think I’ll know when I want to be done. I think I’ll say, ‘You know what, I think I need to be done now.’”
“But you can’t make that decision in the middle of January. You’ve got to make that decision after it’s done and you’ve thought about it and you say, ‘Ok it’s time to step away.’”
In other words, the 56-year- old says…
“I’ll retire when I don’t want to do what I am doing.”
In the meantime, Gibault plans to honor Rueter’s 600 wins at the next home game following the milestone victory.