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Girls' basketball pioneer Van Laecken to become DSU Hall of Famer
May 27, 2011
He wasn't a Dakota State athlete, but Rob Van Laecken learned enough about coaching and the administration of sports programs to later become one of South Dakota's girls' basketball coaching pioneers.
"There are a number of people at Dakota State who inspired me while I attended the school," admitted Van Laecken, who graduated from then-Dakota State College in 1974. "There are about four who stand out in my memory. They are Tom Farrell, Jim Swanson, George Blankley and Al Weisbecker."
Van Laecken had some knowledge of Dakota State before arriving at the Madison college in 1970.
"I had a brother, Ron, who graduated back when Dakota State was known as General Beadle State," said Van Laecken. "I also had two teachers - Steve Entringer and Donna Eide - at Letcher High School who were General Beadle graduates."
Van Laecken began his teaching and coaching career at Corona High School in 1975. Two years later, he came to Parkston, and like people say, the rest is history.
He became Parkston's head girls' basketball coach in the fall of 1977. That was the third year of the sport's existence.
With the 2011 season looming, Van Laecken is only three wins away from tying the legendary late Fred Tibbetts (former DSU alumnus) for the most wins (551) in South Dakota high school girls' basketball history with his current 549-198 record. He has had only two seasons when his Lady Trojans have failed to win at least 10 games.
At Parkston, Van Laecken has also been its athletic director since 1985. He's also been a track coach there since 1975 and has also served as an assistant football coach early in his career.
He has coached his Lady Trojans to 23 districts titles and taken them to the state tournament nine times, finishing third in 1989. The Lady Trojans have won 25 conference titles and the Hutchinson County tournament 17 times.
Van Laecken has coached 16 different All-State players. Ten of his Lady Trojans have scored over 1000 career points.
In addition to being named DSU's Alumni Coach of the Year in 1982, he has been honored numerous times, both on the state and national levels.
The South Dakota High School Activities Association brought him into its Hall of Fame last year and was given its Distinguished Service Award earlier. Van Laecken was also the South Dakota High School Coaches' Association Athletic Director of the Year in 1996-97.
He was a National High School Coaches Association Girls Basketball Coach of the Year finalist in 2001.
Van Laecken is a five-time South Dakota Basketball Coaches regional Coach of the Year honoree (1989, 1991, 2001, 2005 and 2011). He is on the combined SESD-LMVC conferences' Wall of Fame.
Van Laecken and his wife Joanne were married on August 26, 1978. They have two children - a son Erik and a daughter Heidi.
Erik and his wife Sarah reside in Tea and are the parents of a son Tate (2 years old) and a daughter Jayna (1 year old). Erik is employed as Director of IT and Chief Information Officer at Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls. Sarah is employed at Avera Sports Instiute as an exercise physiologist.
Heidi and her husband Chad Groen live in Sioux Falls and are parents of a month-old daughter Camryn Jo. Heidi is employed with Avera Health as a systems analyst, and Chad is employed with Sanford Health as a UNIX Systems administrator.
Dan Holsworth, Dakota State University Athletics Assistant
Edited by Nick Huntimer, Dakota State University Sports Information Director