After 13 seasons as the face of Papermakers basketball and science teacher at Kimberly High School, Lockwood "Lucky" Wurtz is retiring.
"There's a gut feeling when it's time," Wurtz said.
He went back and forth about his decision four times as he talked it over with family members. One of the largest factors in his decision was his commute from home in Fond du Lac to work in Kimberly, a 50-minute drive up Route 41 made tougher in the winter.
"The ride's growing old as I grow older," Wurtz said. However, he hasn't ruled out a return to coaching somewhere closer to home.
"Obviously when retirement hits and I feel like I need to do something, we'll see," Wurtz said. "I'll trout fish and duck hunt, but there could be a void there ... I wouldn't count it out. The game is really, really in my blood, and it'll remain there so we'll see what happens in the next chapter."
In his most recent chapter, players say Wurtz was present from the very beginning of their basketball journeys.
"Growing up, Coach Wurtz was at everything," senior forward Grant Asman said. "We'd go to camps in like third grade at the high school and Coach Wurtz was there."
Players say Wurtz will be missed most for his spirited presence on the sidelines and in the locker room, always carrying his signature oversized Gatorade towel.
"After each big win, especially down on our playoff run, we'd cap off the win in the locker room and Coach Wurtz would have a circle around him and would do the chicken dance in front of us," senior forward Patrick McGinnis said.
But Wurtz was more than a basketball coach to his players: instead, a mentor who helped young adults mature on and off the court. He showed his athletes how to make everyone feel welcome and wanted.
"He has a strong passion for basketball, but I think he has a bigger passion for helping out kids," senior forward Brett Perronne said. "Not just about basketball, but life lessons that we can carry out for the rest of our lives."
"After practice we'd watch film, and he handed out roses to each one of our players, and he kind of just brought the lesson that like when life gives you roses, cherish the moments," senior forward Jackson Dudek said.
Wurtz said he feels blessed to have known so many students and athletes in his decades-long tenure between Laconia, Waupun and Kimberly. As for ending his run on a silver ball in a pandemic, Wurtz said the stress of coronavirus weighed on him.
"It was a different year, and that's all I can say," Wurtz said. "Every year is a tough year coaching and the stress of what you go through but yeah, this weighed a little heavy. From myself having the virus, that wasn't easy either, coming back with energy. The kids kept me going, which I'm just so happy I had a bunch of kids that could pull me through the final two months when we played."
After 13 seasons, Wurtz lead the Papermakers to 231 wins, four conference titles, and a runner-up finish at the state title game this year. He also finishes his run on a threepeat as the FVA Coach of the Year.