Kroupa follows heart, leaves Whitnall coaching position
Veteran mentor won 335 hoops games
Hales Corners - Over the course of his 27-year coaching career, Kent Kroupa made countless decisions regarding his personnel, offensive and defensive plans and specific plays on the basketball court.
At those times, he drew upon his mind and his memory, both of which were honed by his years of experience on the bench. Judging by his 335 victories, his three trips to the WIAA State Tournament and his 1988 state championship, his decisions were usually correct.
When he recently chose to retire from coaching, however, Kroupa called upon a different source.
"My heart told me it was time," said the 63-year-old Kroupa upon announcing that he would step down from his head coaching spot and his teaching position at Whitnall High School.
'Excellent career' for Muskego resident
The Muskego resident thus ended a highly-successful coaching career that covered two stints at Whitnall from 1983-93 and 2003-12 and one at Muskego High School from 1993-2002.
"It was an excellent career," he said. "I had the opportunity to educate students with learning disabilities for 32 years. That was a rewarding experience.
"The coaching was a good run. I met a lot of good people, especially the student-athletes, and it was just a lot of fun. I always looked at teaching and coaching not as a job, but as fun."
Even though he was consistently successful in the win-loss column, Kroupa had deeper aspirations.
"Coaching was not just about winning games," he said. "That was just a part of the process."
He always had a simple but vital goal both in his classroom work and on the court.
"I wanted to work with and touch the lives of the student-athletes and make them a little bit better people," he said. "I thought if I helped make them better people, they would then go on to help someone else later in their lives."
If Stephen Pelkofer, his star player in the past three seasons, is any indication, Kroupa succeeded.
"I can't tell you how many life lessons I learned from him," Pelkofer said. "He always put us in positions to succeed on and off the court and he told us how lucky we were, compared to other people who were worse off."
New Berlin West head coach Jeff Lewiston, who opposed Kroupa over the years in Woodland Conference play, added, "He related well to his players. They were always well-prepared. He motivated the kids and got them ready to play.
"I always enjoyed our games over the years. He was a good tactician and was adaptable to the changing times. He was a good, solid basketball man. I am sorry to see him go, but (his retirement) is well deserved."
Going out near the top
Kroupa ended his Whitnall career with one of his better teams, as his 2011-12 squad finished 22-3 and won the Woodland Black Division championship at 15-2, the Falcons' fourth title in five seasons.
"We ended on a high note," he said. "That was the way I would like to go out. It was a solid happy ending."
Kroupa was also happy to be able to leave teaching and coaching on his own terms, which does not always happen with longtime coaches these days.
He also said that despite losing such senior standouts as Pelkofer, Bryan Nagy, Luke Mentkowski and Ian Ray, the Falcons will not drop off the table next season.
"We have a good youth program," he said. "The outlook is actually exciting. The cupboard is not bare."
As for his own future, he and wife Linda plan to move to Arizona, largely because son Craig secured a teaching and coaching job in Phoenix. Craig had played for Kent at Muskego and had served as his assistant at Whitnall in recent years.
"I look at this as halftime," Kent Kroupa said, "and I am going to the third quarter. We'll see how it goes."
He did not rule out returning to coaching in Arizona.
"If I have the opportunity, I will do that," he said. "I think I am getting better as a coach."
THE KROUPA FILE
The 27-year coaching career of Whitnall and Muskego boys basketball coach Kent Kroupa:
WHITNALL: He coached from 1983-1993, going to the WIAA State Tournament in 1986 and winning the championship in 1988. He later coached from 2003-2012, going to state in 2004. His teams won Woodland Conference Black Division championships in four of the past five seasons, including this year.
MUSKEGO: He coached from 1993-2002, during which time he coached both his sons, Craig and Brad.
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