West High School - Davenport, Iowa

Retiring coach has led Wildcats since the school opened
By Dearrel Bates

Davenport North’s only boys basketball coach is retiring.

J.D. Rios, who has guided the Wildcats since the school opened in the 1985-86 school year, told his players at the recent North awards night that this would be his final year. He had said at the beginning of this past season that he would make a decision after the season ended whether he would continue to coach or retire.

Rios, who retired from teaching Spanish at North in 1998 but continued to coach, compiled a 203-235 record in 20 years. He took teams to the state tournament five times, finishing as the state runner-up in 1989 and fourth in 1995 and 1996.

“Now my golf game is going to take precedence,’’ joked Rios, who had a telephone conversation interrupted Monday by a call from a brother in Phoenix planning an annual golfing trip there later this spring.

“In January, when my wife (Diane) decided to retire as a teacher at North at the end of the school year, I pretty much made up my mind that I would retire from coaching,’’ Rios said.

“I didn’t want to announce it then, however, because I didn’t want it to take away from the players and their season. I wanted our season to play out, but I haven’t lost my enthusiasm for basketball.’’

The Wildcats finished 8-15 in Rios’ final season but ended on a high note.

In their final two regular-season games, they gave unbeaten league champion and state tourney qualifier Bettendorf all it could handle before losing and then knocked off state-ranked Pleasant Valley. In the substate series, North beat North Scott in overtime before falling to state-ranked and state qualifier Iowa City West.

“This season was a disappointment, from the standpoint of not finishing with a better record,’’ he said. “But at the end of the season, we were playing the way I thought we would the entire year.’’

Before taking the North job, Rios served as an assistant coach for Dave Wessel at Davenport West for 18 years. He was with Wessel when the Falcons captured a state title in 1971 and made four other state tourney trips.

“For the past 38 years, we’ve never had a break from basketball at Christmas because we’ve still been practicing, so that will be something new,’’ Rios said. “There are places to see and things to do now for my wife and I that we’ve never had the opportunity because of basketball.

“I’m going to miss the preparation and breaking down tape on teams that we were going to face. That part of the game is something a lot of coaches don’t enjoy, but I did. Who knows, maybe I’ll get into that type of business of going out and scouting teams, putting together reports and selling them to coaches.’’

Rios feels he has two people on his staff who deserve to be considered as successors, if they are interested in the job. Assistant coach Jim Wessel has been with Rios since he started at North in the 1985-86 season and Rios’ son, Greg, who has been the Wildcats’ sophomore coach for the past seven years.

Dearrel Bates can be contacted at (563) 383-2277 or dbates@qctimes.com.

Published in the Quad-City Times on 3/15/2005.