Former Austin, Caledonia basketball coach reflects on a career that was fulfilling, challenging

Jan. 6—Kris Fadness retired as Austin's boys basketball coach following the 2021-22 season. Fadness spent 25 seasons at Austin, four at Caledonia and one at Forest Lake. His cumulative record in that time was a sparkling 504-266. That included reaching state seven times with the Packers, finishing runner-up three times. At Caledonia, he reached state three times and won a state title in 1997 when his team finished unbeaten.

Fadness, 59, continues to teach physical education at Austin High School.

POST BULLETIN: You're still teaching after 31 years. How's that going?

FADNESS: I have a really nice schedule. I teach all elective physical education classes, both team and individual sports classes. Most of the students are in grades 10-12. It's good. We play a lot of games, like tennis, pickleball, outside touch football, volleyball, some soccer and team handball. I've got a couple of years of teaching left (before retirement), but I still enjoy it.

You had tremendous success as a high school coach. What made you decide after the 2021-22 season that you'd had enough?

I could give you a million reasons why, but at the time I was just burned out. I was spending five or six days in the gym all summer in June and July. Then we'd have fall league basketball every year and in the spring there was AAU stuff going on. The high school regular season lasts 3 1/2 months and there were times when we were playing five nights per week, with 9A, B squad and varsity games to get to each night. We'd leave on the bus for away games at 3 o'clock and not get home until after 10. Those nights got long. There was also the basketball budget to handle, and I was dealing with fundraisers. . .It was just constant. I was burned out.

Was the burnout a gradual thing or did it suddenly hit you that final season?

It had been something that had been creeping up. I felt like 25 years in Austin was a good time to end things as a coach. I didn't want to get to the point where I was cheating (the basketball players). If you're not all-in, then you are doing a disservice to your players.

As you look back on it, what gave you the most satisfaction as a coach?

It's all the time you spend with the student-athletes. It's the relationships that you build with your players, and I also had a great passion for the game and I still do. I always tried to be present with my players. But building those relationships got a little bit harder the last three to five years. And I would say more than anything, that had to do with me getting older. That was part of the reason I thought it was important to get a fresher voice in the program.

How did your wife, Sandy, handle all of your years of coaching?

She did great with it. I put her in a tough spot (with the long hours of coaching). But she was very supportive of me coaching. She always worried about me retiring from coaching and then wondering what I was going to do without it.

What has coaching retirement been like (Fadness has done some coaching consulting, watching game films online and then offering advice)?

I miss it. I miss being on the court with the kids — that's what I miss most. There is just something about it. People talk about how challenging retirement can be, how tough that first year can be because you had a pursuit in your life and now you don't have it anymore. For me, that was basketball, something that had taken me a lot of places in life and allowed me to make a lot of friends and build relationships. Without that now, I've struggled some finding purpose. I'd always felt like my purpose was to be with kids. So, at times, it's been tough to be away.

Any thoughts of coming back to coaching on any regular basis?

There is a temptation to get back into it. I have former players who are coaches now and I can watch videos and give advice to them. And I've gone to a few practices. I've been appreciative of how they've let me in a little bit.

What is your advice to any young coach?

I think you have to be really committed to it. The game needs to take precedence. As far as the X's and O's, if you work hard and communicate on defense, that covers up for some weaknesses. Offensively, it's about valuing every possession.

What's the best team you ever coached?

That Caledonia team in 1997, we won every game we played and we only had two games that we won by less than 10 points. I would have loved to have had a shot at Minneapolis North that season (Caledonia, led by guard Aaron Middendorf and center Andy Foster, beat DeLaSalle in the state final). We were a pretty loaded bunch. And in 2013 with Austin, we were unbeaten until we met DeLaSalle in the state final.