CEDAR RAPIDS — Brian Erbe has allowed his health to take a back seat to softball.
But no longer.
Erbe abruptly and surprisingly announced his retirement as Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s softball coach Thursday, effective immediately.
“I know how bad my knee is, and I can’t wait until after the season to have it replaced,” said Erbe, 64, who acknowledged additional medical reasons that he is keeping private.
“I’ve got to take better care of myself.”
Erbe steps down after 16 years of coaching, the last six at Jefferson, his alma mater (he graduated in 1972). His career record was 534-203, including 210-53 at Jefferson.
His final game was a win, in the Class 5A third-place game at the state tournament last July.
“It has always been my passion,” he said. “The program is in great shape. We have a lot of seniors coming back. It will be a transition, but it will be OK.”
Jefferson Athletics Director Chris Deam said that within the upcoming weeks, he will announce an interim coach for the 2019 season.
“All options are open,” he said.
Erbe was an assistant coach for Larry Niemeyer when Jefferson won back-to-back state championships in 1997 and 1998. The ‘98 title was the last won by a Metro team.
He was hired at Xavier in 2003, and he took the Saints to five state tournaments, highlighted by a 3A third-place finish in 2006.
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Erbe suffered a heart attack in May 2012, and Nikki Gahring served as an interim coach at Xavier that season.
Now the head coach at Xavier, Gahring coached alongside Erbe for nine seasons and against him for six.
“The Xavier-Jefferson games were always ones I looked forward to,” Gahring said. “It’s going to be weird not seeing him on the other side of the diamond, giving each other fun little stabs here and there.
“One thing he did, that I try to do, is ask for input his assistants and his players. He wanted to make a team decision together.”
The nation’s leader in career wins, Niemeyer was not renewed at Jefferson following the 2012 season, and Erbe was hired to succeed him. His six seasons at Jefferson netted five state appearances, with last year’s third-place finish the best.
Erbe’s successor inherits a strong roster. Eight starters return from the squad that posted a 36-9 mark last summer, led by senior Lindsey Culver, a South Dakota State University commit. The J-Hawks must replace 28-game pitching winner Erica Oler, now at UNI.
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