The Long, Enjoyable Ride to the Top

Imagine your first year as head coach for a Division II college. You step foot on the hardwood looking to transform a program. The expectations are high and this is the chance to finally make a name for yourself. The season ends with a 0-26 record. Now it seems that coaching career has ripened for retirement. For Coach Larry Just, it was the perfect coaching experience to propel him to where he is now; a place where he is doing just right. He was named the region six Coach of the Year for girls basketball in the state of Kentucky.

“Some people would say the 0-26 year is a low. It actually wasn’t as bad as it was. I learned a lot that year and actually grew a lot as a coach, and [it] made me appreciate a lot of things.” When asked about his thoughts on the honor of Coach of the Year, he said, “Certainly, it’s an honor to be recognized by your peers for what you try to do. To do things right and things go well for you; some recognize that and I’m appreciative of it.”

Butler’s girls have had success in recent years in basketball. In six years of coaching there, Coach Just has helped to keep a winning tradition. A season ago, he led the Butler Bearettes to a state championship, followed by ending this season with a 23-6 record and winning the District 22 Championship in Louisville.

Just says that one of the high points in coaching at Butler was of course winning a state championship, but to him the apex of coaching there has been, “Some of the relationships that we’ve helped build with the kids each of the years that I’ve been a part of the program. That’s been one of the things that’s been more important to me is the kids and how they’ve been able to create those relationships, and hopefully hang on to them for quite a few years down the road.”

For Coach Just and his players, pressure weighed heavy on this team after winning a state championship last year. He said by having a young team, the expectation was to win several more state titles. Despite coming up a bit short this season, the team still had quality wins over some of the top ranked teams in the state.

Coach Just has cultivated the program at Butler by maintaining talented players and keeping them motivated. By having coaching experience in the college ranks, he prepares his players for the next level. The message he gives them for both on and off the court is, “Learn to do things right. You have rules [and] you have expectations. If you learn to do those things right [and] don’t take the short cuts, I think in the long run you’re going to have success, [and] you’re going to end up enjoying it because you’re doing it the right way. And trying to teach the kids accountability, [and to] do the little things to be accountable for what the expectations are, because that’s what you’re expected to do when you walk out the door in real life. So we try to teach that on the floor and off the floor, in terms of the whole person and the whole player.”

Coach Larry Just is one of six siblings who have marked X’s and O’s as a coach. Sure, in your typical family there may be times where each sibling tries to outweigh the other, but for the Just family, they just want to see their players do well. James Just, the head coach for Manual high school was also honored as Coach of the Year for the Region Seven boys. Younger brother Larry says,

“I think for both of us we don’t do it for the recognition part. Those things happen because your team has some success along the way. Some coaches happen to recognize that those two things happen to go together in a given year. But for neither one of us, it’s not about us. We tell our kids all the time it’s not about us. We had our chance to play. This time it’s about us as coaches trying to help these kids get where they want and to reach their goals. Those are the things we want most out of coaching. It’s not the honors and the rewards, but it’s to see kids do well.” VT