Since being named head basketball coach at Lawrence University in 2007, he has been one of the winningest coaches in the program’s 107-year history. The 2008-09 Midwest Conference Coach of the Year has taken the Vikings to the NCAA tournament twice since he has been here and won the MWC Championship six times. As a coach, he boasts an overall record of 85-57, making his win percentage of .599 the eighth best in Lawrence history.
However, coach Joel DePagter has not only been successful through coaching. When he graduated from Lawrence in 1998, he held numerous records as a player. He is eighth all-time in the Midwest Conference in scoring with 1,243 points. DePagter was a three-time first-team All-Midwest Conference selection and the 1997 MWC Player of the Year. At Lawrence, he is first in career assists (357) and steals (211), and in the fall of 2008, DePagter was inducted into the Lawrence University Athletic Hall of Fame for his playing career.
I caught up with coach DePagter to gain a little more personal insight into one of Lawrence’s best athletes and coaches.
D: “Having played basketball for Lawrence and graduating from LU in 1998, it was certainly a good fit. Coach John Tharp, who I played for, gave me the opportunity to come back as an assistant. I worked as an assistant coach for a few other schools in the Midwest, and then finally had the chance to coach at my alma mater and be closer to home,” said the Sheboygan, Wis. native on why he decided to return to the Vikings.”
S: Many players have specific rituals that get them prepared for the games, so I wanted to know, as a coach, if those rituals and superstitions still exist?
D: “Not as a coach—don’t really even remember if I had any as a player. Probably listening to some music and sitting by myself in the team room. I always say a quick prayer for my players and my family before each game,” replied DePagter.”
Though he has been one of the winningest coaches in Lawrence history, there are obviously always ups and downs in a coaching career. So, naturally, I was interested in hearing what the worst and best moments of his career have been.
D: “I get to be involved with a lot of really great young men and have the opportunity to coach the sport I love—so there are not any moments I would say are the ‘worst.’ There are certainly many tough losses over the years that were not real easy to deal with, but wins and losses come and go—the people involved with the program are what really matter.
“It is tough to pick a best moment—certainly being a part of six conference championships and NCAA tournaments as a player, assistant coach and head coach is something I will cherish forever. You never know when or if it will happen again. Being inducted into the Lawrence Athletic Hall of Fame was really special. I never played for awards or honors like that, but being recognized alongside that group is very humbling. My favorite moments are after every game, especially when we win, when my almost-three-year-old daughter, Adina, runs over to me on the court calling for me,” humbly answered coach DePagter.
Lastly, I wondered if there was one thing that coach DePagter wanted to achieve here during his time as head of the basketball program.
D: “Nothing real specific, just want to keep bringing in quality student-athletes that love to play basketball. If we can do that, good things will happen. Getting back to the NCAA tournament is definitely a goal for all of us in this program.”