BLAIR — When does someone become “old?” There’s no set date with age. Sure, birthdays mark the passage of a year, but nobody wakes up one day and magically feels old. Rather, there are moments and signs that mark the passage of time.
“Age is a factor of your brain,” 59-year-old Blair-Taylor basketball coach Randy Storlie said. “If you don’t think you’re old, you’re not.”
Storlie is working on his 37th year coaching in the Blair-Taylor area, and while he might not be as nimble as he used to be back when he started coaching at 22-years-old, he says he still doesn’t feel old.
“My hair color is a little different. I have an amazing shrinking closet because my clothes seem to get a little tighter,” Storlie joked. “But I don’t think I’ve really changed that much.”
This year, though, there’s been a sign of the time. When Storlie looks down at his roster he sees the names of three boys, Issac Nerby, Kyle Steien, and Matt Waldera, whose fathers he coached during Blair-Taylor’s inaugural 1990 season.
It’s not the first time Storlie has coached a father-son duo, but he’s never had this many on one roster. And, while the outside world might see this as a marker of his age, Storlie says it’s just exciting for him.
“It makes me feel great that they trust in me so much and had so much fun when they played for me and learned so much…that they wanted their kids to have the same experience,” Storlie said.
He doesn’t like to compare the boys to their fathers. He says that all three boys share their father’s love for the game and have similar play styles, but skill-wise, he won’t say.
Of the three, Steien says he feels the most pressure to follow his father’s success.
Eric Steien is Blair-Taylor’s all-time leading scorer, recording 1,985 points from 1987-90 including 667 in 1990; however, Eric says he just wants his son to have fun and forge his own Wildcat career.
As for the other boys, Nerby contends that his father, Wyatt Nerby, was probably faster than he is; however, Isaac says he probably could have beat his father if the two played a pickup game. Waldera too says he’s better than his father ever was, and his father, Duane Waldera, agrees.
Though Storlie won’t compare his players, he says this 2019 team would beat that 1990 squad. It’s a sentiment shared by both Eric and Duane who say their team wasn’t as deep and didn’t have the same speed that today’s Wildcat team has.
Even as the years go on, Storlie says he doesn’t plan on leaving Blair-Taylor any time soon. He plans on coaching for about another decade or so and he thinks he’ll know when it’s time to go.
“I’m going to go as long as I possibly can,” he said. “It’s just what I love and now that I’ve got Wildcat blue in my blood, I don’t think I could ever get it out of me.”
Thirty-seven years is a long time in one place. Most coaches would move on or get fired multiple times over during that period, but Storlie says he’s been one of the lucky ones.
“You can only stick around that long if, one, you enjoy the game, two, you’ve had success, three, you’ve had support from the community, and four, if you have support from your family, and I’ve had all of these,” he said. “I’m just very blessed that I have all those in my back pocket.”
One day he thinks he’ll look back and marvel at his career. When he started in 1981, he never dreamed of being where he is today. He was just hoping to make one appearance at state.
Now, the Wildcats are on the verge of Storlie’s ninth state appearance and he’s leading a group of boys that are looking to make it further than their fathers ever could.