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Sunday
April 18th, 2021

haskell02Liberal coach Trace Haskell questions a call during a recent game in The Big House. Haskell filled the role of head coach for the 2020-2021 season, finishing third in the Western Athletic Conference and earning a 7-14 overall record. L&T photos/Earl WattBy EARL WATT

• Leader & Times

Anyone who watched Trace Haskell coaching the Redskin basketball team this season would have a hard time recognizing that this was his first — and possibly only — season as the head coach.

Haskell never sought the job, but when Ryan Petty left for Augusta just before the school year started, that left the Redskins basketball program without a leader.

Who could Liberal High School find with such short notice?

Bringing in an outsider was out of the question. The coach would have to be found from existing staff.

Enter Trace Haskell, a Redskin through and through.

As a player in the 1990s, Haskell guided the Redskins to the one and only undefeated state championship out of the four they won that decade.

Haskell has the rings to prove what he could do as an athlete.

He ran track for state championship teams, and he also played basketball.

My son Rustin watched Haskell when he was just 6-years-old, and he wanted to be a quarterback like Trace Haskell.

As the team player he is, Haskell answered the call to head up the basketball program as the interim head coach for this season only, and he was clear about that.

Granted, he recently stated on a social media post that one should “never say never,” but he never made a case to be the long term head coach. That’s another sign of being selfless and willing to give back. 

Throughout the season, Haskell never appeared to have an ego that needed stroked. That’s not why he stepped up when he was needed.

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He cared about the players.

Let’s be clear — Haskell never took a shot this season. He never double dribbled. He didn’t turn the ball over or miss a bunch of shots in the lane.

It was a tough season for Redskin basketball, but not for a lack of effort or not being in a position to succeed.

Haskell put his players in position to compete. 

I’m sure the players will agree that a made shot here and there, a better pass, a more focused effort on defense would have led to more wins. But it wasn’t from a lack of coaching.

Haskell belonged on the sideline, and he looked more like a veteran coach than one who took the reigns in the 11th hour.

He wasn’t afraid to converse with the officials when he believed there was a reason, but he also never blamed officiating for a loss, and he never abused them.

He did earn a technical this season, and he was right to do it. Not only did he believe a call should have been made, but his players needed to see someone cared, and no one could question whether or not Haskell cared.

He did.

Deeply.

He wanted the kids to experience success, and an early overtime win in Colby coupled with wins over Great Bend and Garden City in the WAC provided them with that.

Haskell was a great representative on the sideline, showing the dignity and respect, and when necessary, the passion his team needed to see.

Haskell isn’t the type of guy to play with his emotions on his sleeve. He doesn’t get too high, and he doesn’t get too low.

And that even-keel approach is just what Liberal Redskin basketball needed from him this season.

This wasn’t a throw-away year, either. Haskell left the team in a good position for whoever is the next head coach.

And it wouldn’t be the worst thing if Haskell didn’t give the job serious consideration.

Either way, he deserves our thanks. He did the job, he did it with class, and he represented well. There’s no better example of being a team player.

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