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Western Christian's Eekhoff chases eighth state title

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Western Christian's Jim Eekhoff is chasing a record eighth state title this season. Western Christian's Jim Eekhoff is chasing a record eighth state title this season.
HULL, Iowa (KTIV) -  Only two coaches in Iowa history have won seven boys state basketball titles.
Western Christian's Jim Eekhoff could become the first to win eight championships.

Before Eekhoff became the head coach at Western Christian, the school had never won a state basketball title. Last March, Eekhoff tied Davenport's Paul Moon with his seventh championship.    Eekhoff could break that record this season,  which has stood for more than sixty years.

Jim Eekhoff knew what he wanted to do with his life the day he visited old Veteran's Auditorium in Des Moines as a senior at a tiny high school in Kanawha, Iowa.

"I remember walking in that place and I knew I wanted to be a coach then," said Eekhoff. "My dream to that point was, maybe someday I can just coach one game in this place. That would be great.Obviously that dream came true."

Eekhoff's dreams have been topped by real life. Seven state championships over four different decades. The first came in 1985, the second came in 1991.

"It is so sweet. I'm enjoying this one. In '85 it didn't really soak in," Eekhoff said in 1991. "It was only my third year as a coach and came down here and won it easily. I guess I thought it was easy to win a state championship."

It's never been easy, but last year's state title team was his first undefeated season. Getting number eight and setting the record isn't something he wants to do for himself.

"Obviously, that seventh one was pretty special," said Eekhoff. "An eighth one, I'm perfectly content with seven but for the kid's sake it would sure be nice to get another one. Winning a state championship, the best thing about it, until the next practice starts the next year, you wake up every morning with a smile on your face."

The work for number eight begins in practice. Now in his 33rd season, Eekhoff still take practice very seriously.

"I owe it to these kids to give them everything I've got every day in practice and I expect that in return and I think we get that accomplished. If we have a bad practice, I just have to look in the mirror and it's probably my fault that we had a bad practice."

To eliminate bad practices, Eekhoff uses a word that, he admits, Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight may have made up -- slippage.

"You cannot allow slippage in a basketball practice. You can't just let something go if it isn't being done right or correctly. We're not going to allow any slippage. We're going to do it right and we're going to keep doing it until we get it right."

Dynasties in any sport are admired, but often resented by rivals. Eekhoff says he feels Western Christian has the respect of opposing schools but realizes not everyone is rooting for them to win another state title.

"We get beat at a school and a lot of times the fans will rush the floor. Beat us here, they're taking pictures by the trophy case or things like that. That to me is just a real compliment to us and our program and what we've accomplished. I don't resent any of that at all. Honestly it's not good for the same team to always win and I understand that and we don't always win."

But Eekhoff's won a lot. He ranks fifth on Iowa's all-time list with over 650 victories. At age 64, he doesn't know how many more wins he'll have. He's also a teacher and Western's Athletic Director, but when he hangs up the whistle, he wants to be remembered in simple terms.

"When I'm finished here I think I'll be remembered mostly as the coach, simply because that's where you get the most exposure and that's fine with me. I just want to be remembered as the guy who coached here for a while."
    
Eekhoff has never missed a game in his 33 seasons. The third-ranked Wolfpack start district play on Thursday with a 19-2 record. If Western doesn't win it all this year, watch out next year. There are no seniors on this year's team.

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