CEDAR RAPIDS — If you sit next to or near Dick Breitbach Sr. in the stands at a Cedar Rapids Xavier boys’ basketball game, it’s easy to see he is still internally coaching.
He squirms in his seat, chews his gum nervously, sways back and forth when shots go up and rebounds are there to be had. Every once in awhile, he’ll turn to his wife, Kitty, and explain something he sees.
“It’s harder being up there than it is being down on the floor,” the 81-year-old legendary retired coach said. “On the floor, you can always do some things about it. Get on a player, if he’s not hustling, or something like that. And, of course, you can get a little bit of a barb in on the officiating.”
Xavier seeks a Class 3A championship three-peat this week at the boys’ state basketball tournament in Des Moines. Only six schools have won it all three years in a row.
One of those six was Breitbach’s Cedar Rapids Regis Royals in 1982, 1983 and 1984. Regis and Cedar Rapids LaSalle merged to become Xavier in 1998.
Some neat little symmetry there.
“I just love to watch the young kids,” Breitbach said. “I do a little second guessing every once in awhile, always think the kids can do better than they do. But it’s nice to see when they cut loose. Normally, they’re just so much better than they were in my day. I think all athletics have improved in the time since I was in both football and basketball. It’s fun to watch them, fun to cheer along.” Breitbach said he missed only one Xavier game this season. Still a substitute teacher, he knows a lot of these Saints and will chat every once in awhile with Saints Coach Ryan Luehrsmann.
“We talk about the game,” Luehrsmann said. “He is obviously very interested in Xavier basketball still, cares deeply about it. He is definitely someone I have bounced ideas off of and gotten input from.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Assistant coach Brad Stovie is the link between that glorious past and glorious present. He was part of the ‘83 and ‘84 Regis teams.
Breitbach was able to coach two of his sons to championships: Dick Jr. and Tommy. Dick Breitbach Jr. will be inducted this week into the IHSAA Basketball Hall of Fame.
The perfect year for that.
“It’s pretty neat, actually, to be part of it as a player and coach,” Stovie said. “When I was at Regis, I just thought you won every year. Then I got into coaching, and I realized it’s a lot more difficult than that. You didn’t think about it as a player, you just played.”
“First of all, you’ve got to have some good fortune, because anything can happen,” Breitbach said. “You can get injuries, you can get into foul trouble, you can have illness. And, of course, you never really know if the kids are ready all the time. Sometimes in a 20-game regular season, it can get tough to get ready for those postseason games. You’ve got to have a lot of things going on for you.”
Breitbach said looking back, the 1983 title team probably surprised him most because Regis graduated many important players from the ‘82 team. He said he felt his 1985 team was well capable of winning it all, too, but leading scorer and rebounder Dave Downey got hurt in its first district game, and Regis ended up losing by two points to LaSalle (a team it beat twice in the regular season) in the district final.
This Xavier team has had its share of close calls at state the last two years but has never folded. In 2016, it beat overcame a frantic rally by Pella to win in the semifinals, before ending Dubuque Wahlert’s attempt at a three-peat in the championship game.
It had a 10-11 record going to last year’s postseason but got hot at the right time and won six straight there. It beat Waverly-Shell Rock in overtime in the semifinals and made some huge shots late to overcome Sergeant Bluff-Luton in the finals.
Senior point guard Matt Mims and senior wing Jackson Joens have been the constants as three-year starters. Xavier (18-6) is 3A’s top seed and plays Metro foe Marion (14-10) in a quarterfinal Tuesday morning at 11:15 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!
You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.
“It would be a huge accomplishment, just seeing all the teams that have done it before,” Joens said. “There aren’t very many. Growing up watching Xavier basketball, it hasn’t been too good. To kind of help it turn the page and have the chance to make history is pretty cool.” “It’s unique and will be very special if we are able to do it,” Luehrsmann said. “Just even to have a chance, to be in this position makes us feel pretty good. There is no added pressure that goes with it. Don’t think so at all. It’s a different team this year than it was last year. About half the kids haven’t won a title. We’re kind of viewing it that way. We’re not good enough to get ahead of ourselves.”
l Comments: (319) 398-8259; firstname.lastname@example.org