MARION — This decision was weeks in the making. Probably longer.
John Begley, whose final win was a memorable one in a variety of ways, announced his retirement as head softball coach at Linn-Mar High School during the team’s postseason banquet Thursday night.
Begley, 71, has served as the Lions’ coach for the past five years. In all, he was a head coach for 24 years and compiled a career record of 700-393.
“He is going to be missed,” Linn-Mar associate athletics director Tonya Moe said in a release Thursday. “Not only as a softball coach, but more because he has great relationships with the kids. He taught them so much more than the game of softball. He truly cared for his student-athletes.
“You won’t find a better person than Coach Begley.”
Cedar Rapids Jefferson coach Brian Erbe said, “John is one of the good ones that I will truly miss. He’s an excellent coach, but a better human being. A great guy. I hate to see him go.”
Begley took seven teams to state, winning a Class 2A championship in 2003 at Solon.
He began his head-coaching career with two years at Cedar Rapids LaSalle (1994-95), then took a year off to be an assistant for John Olachnovitch at Linn-Mar.
“I missed being a head coach,” he said, so then it was on to Springville (1997-2001), Solon (2002-06), Jesup (2007-13) and Linn-Mar (2014-18).
He led Solon to state four times, Jesup twice, Linn-Mar once.
“You remember the players and the assistant coaches you’ve worked with,” Begley said last week. “There have been a lot of big moments — the championship in 2003, getting to coach my granddaughter (Kelsey Lough at Jesup)."
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Begley was non-committal about his future in an interview last week, then again after the Lions’ Class 5A regional-final loss to Iowa City High. Moe said that Begley told her before the season that this would be his last.
He earned his 700th win Saturday when the Lions upset No. 2 Cedar Rapids Kennedy, 4-3, in a 10-inning regional semifinal.
Moe said the search for a new coach will begin immediately. Begley will continue his role as a bus driver for Linn-Mar’s athletics teams.
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