It's not unusual for a high school sports team to have a former player who they look up to come back to the school as a motivational speaker or advisor. Often those inspirational figures are college players or, occasionally, professionals who can reflect back on their prep careers.
Yet the Elkhorn (Neb.) High girls basketball program has a particularly unique mentor, based almost solely on his experience ... or at least the wealth of it. That's because Elkhorn assistant coach Gene Kruger is 86.
"Some of [Elkhorn's opponents] have asked who [Kruger] is," Elkhorn senior forward Brittney Lynch told the Omaha World-Herald. "They think he might be someone's grandpa.
"It's really inspirational seeing him here. And he's always giving us tips and showing us different drills that have made us a better team."
According to the World-Herald, Kruger became an assistant coach for the girls team four years ago, following a volunteer stint as an assistant coach for the boys program. Kruger initially led the boys team to the Nebraska state final twice in three years as the program's head coach in the late '60s and early '70s.
Across a 36-year career as a head coach in a variety of sports and occasional athletic director, Kruger racked up a career basketball record of 330-135 and a football record of 37-27-2, sufficient for entry into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Yet those accolades weren't enough to keep Kruger off the sideline despite his advancing age. As a result, the senior citizen has played a significant role in helping mold the Antlers to a dominant season that has them currently ranked No. 2 in Nebraska's Class B.
If the Antlers make another run to the state finals, they might even help Kruger accomplish the one thing he fell short of in his distinguished high school career: A state title.
"We had some great teams over the years," Kruger told the World-Herald. "But we just weren't quite able to get that state championship.
"These girls deserve another chance at the title. And if they can get it, that would really be the star on the horizon."