Steve Frank, who led the Lady Indians girls basketball squad through four state-championship seasons and a 115-and-counting win streak, resigned from his head coach position at Strafford High School on Tuesday, April 23.
While Frank will remain in his position as a physical education teacher and assistant athletic director at Strafford, the school has handed the reins of the girls basketball program to Dustin Larsen, the man who coached the Springfield Catholic boys basketball team to a second-place finish in Missouri Class 3 last season.
In a recent interview with The Mail, Frank revealed what went into the decision to step down.
Though his daughters and top-performing players, Hayley and Kayley, just finished their high school careers with Strafford, Frank insisted that his original plan was not actually to depart at the same time.
“It’s been the million-dollar question all year, but you know my though-process was, I was going to go one more year,” Frank said. “I didn’t want to miss a lot of my kids’ stuff, but I figured their freshman year, if we worked our schedule right, then I could make the majority of it work.”
What changed for Frank was the opportunity to hand the job over to someone he trusted. According to him, Larsen had been his pick for a successor for some time.
“Dustin and I go back a long time — we coached against each other when I was at Seymour and he was at Catholic, and we did camps together and got to know each other pretty good,” said Frank. “I had told myself back then, there was a couple of people that I would entrust to coach my kids, and Dustin was one of them.”
According to Frank, the two had a tentative agreement that Larsen would come to Strafford when Frank was ready to move on, but just as he had settled on the idea of one more year, Larsen floated the possibility of pushing the timeline forward.
“That put me in a tailspin. It hit me like a brick wall because I wasn’t prepared to go this year,” said Frank. “I was already in the mindset that I was doing one more and we were good. I was really torn. I’ll tell you, I’ve cried more in the last three weeks than I have my whole life, I think.”
Frank said he wavered on whether or not to go, making up his mind that it was time after a conversation with his family, only to reverse course when having to make the decision final with Strafford superintendent Brett Soden. “I went into Mr. Soden’s office and I was like, ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t do it. It’s just eating on me so much, I can’t do it.’”
Soden reportedly gave him the weekend to make up his mind, and in that time, Frank attended daughter Hayley’s Kansas vs. Missouri All-Star game in Kansas City.
“We got a chance to hang out and do some fun stuff in KC,” recalled Frank. “And on my way home from that, I was able to do a lot of thinking on that drive, and I realized, man, this is what I want. I want to be able to spend time with my kids.”
With Hayley attending and playing for Mizzou in the fall and Kayley doing the same at College of the Ozarks, Frank noted that he couldn’t stand the thought of his attentions having to be so divided. He also believes that leaving in time for Larsen to step in is what’s best for the program.
Even so, he’s not letting go entirely.
“My first-hour class is all my basketball girls, and we’re still going to be doing all my weight training, doing all my extra shooting and all that in the morning with the kids, so I’m still going to have a hand in it,” he said. “I’m just not going to be sitting on the bench when the game time comes.”
As for how he thinks he’ll do in the spectator section, both at Strafford games and his daughters’ college games, Frank’s actually not sure. “I’ve never really been in that position, basketball wise. I’ve been sitting in that chair for 28 years now, so that part of it. That’s going to be different.”