It was a step down a road he never imagined he would travel, and after it became a decade-long journey Rick Wagner found his end game.
The Daniel Boone head softball coach, who transformed the program into a state power he once thought impossible, announced his retirement Monday after a few restful nights.
“The last two or three nights I slept really well,” said Wagner. “My conscience wasn't bothering me, so I believe I am making the right decision.”
At age 53, Wagner sensed it was the right time to end a 30-year coaching career.
“I've been thinking about it the past couple of years,” said Wagner. “Recently for no certain reason, I started thinking about it harder. My son, Daniel, is still in college playing baseball. My brother, Bill, who helped me coach, got a promotion and he's living in Pittsburgh. I've got another assistant who is taking over soccer next year. I just thought this was the right time.”
Wagner will continue to coach the Lady Trailblazers as they enter the district tournament this weekend and try to finish off his last season in style — even though he wants to stay out of the spotlight.
“This is not about me,” said Wagner. “The thing I'm most proud of is the program.”
After jumping head first into baseball coaching jobs at Volunteer and Daniel Boone, Wagner hesitated — and perhaps even scoffed a bit — when he was offered the softball job at Boone.
“God must have a good sense of humor,” said Wagner. “I was given an opportunity to coach a sport I had never even seen before. I thought I would only be in baseball, not softball — and not coaching girls.”
During his first season with the Lady Trailblazers, Wagner returned from a Chattanooga tournament a bit shellshocked.
“I was fully convinced there would not be a (Class AAA) team north of Knoxville ever make it to the state,” said Wagner. “We were that far behind the way they were playing down there.”
Then Wagner went about the business of proving himself wrong. He built Boone into a state tournament contender. Then he helped the Lady Trailblazers reach the Class AAA state tournament.
And in 2012, Boone made it to the Class AAA state championship round. The Lady 'Blazers, who finished with 50 wins, beat Soddy-Daisy and forced a deciding game before finishing as runner-up.
As Boone heads into the District 1-AAA tournament with a record of 26-15, Wagner's 12-year mark stands at 339-176. That includes seven district championships, four sectional appearances, and the two state berths.
It's a closing door for Wagner, but not one he necessarily plans on bolting shut.
“I'm not saying I will never coach again,” he said. “I've coached every year for 30 years of teaching, but I'm not burned out. I just think for me and the program, it's right.”comments powered by Disqus