Cary Cada knew last spring that his time as Borah’s boys basketball coach was nearing an end.
He shared the information with his family, but did not publicly disclose that his 22nd season as the Lions’ head coach would be his last.
It was indicative of his entire career.
Despite a reputation as one of the most respected and decorated coaches in Idaho, Cada’s focus remained ever intent on his players — down to his last day.
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The Lions celebrated their season with an awards banquet Wednesday night, and the 60-year-old Cada waited until Thursday morning to share the news of his retirement.
“This isn’t about me. It’s about this team, this season and especially those seniors,” Cada told the Idaho Statesman. “That’s why I didn’t say anything. Players have built this program, I didn’t. Now it’s up to them to keep it going.”
After 10 years as an assistant, Cada took over as Borah’s varsity coach in 1994, and the Lions had three straight losing seasons before making the first of 15 state tournament appearances under Cada beginning in 1997-98.
Borah finished second to Coeur d’Alene that year and from then on, the Lions missed only four postseasons during Cada’s tenure.
Borah players wear green sportcoats on game days. Coach Cary Cada started the tradition in 2002.
His program built a reputation for playing tough, man defense.
“Playing Borah, you know you’re going to get stingy, gritty defense where the guys just sell out defensively,” said Manny Varela, a former Borah assistant and current head coach at Boise High. “You’re going to get no easy looks. You’re not going to get any easy catches, and every play is going to be contested.
“Offensively, they’re always so disciplined.”
Cada closed out his career on an impressive run, making 13 state appearances in 14 seasons and winning state championships in 2004, 2005, 2012 and 2013. The Lions were state runners-up three times (1998, 2007, 2014) and took home the third-place trophy three times (2000, 2010, 2016).
“I think he’s a great guy and a great role model for us coaches. The way in which he carries himself and his program and kids, I just think it’s a measuring stick for coaches and schools and programs in general,” Mountain View coach Jon Nettleton said. “It’s what you want your program to look like.”
Cada was voted the 5A Southern Idaho Conference or state coach of the year 14 times by his peers and finishes with a record of 366-166 — a winning percentage of 68.8.
“This isn’t what Cary Cada built. For crying out loud, the players that we’ve had, they deserve the credit. The parents that we’ve had deserve the credit,” Cada said. “The Borah players routinely come into the program with a, ‘What-can-I-do-to-help-coach attitude.’
“That’s their attitude to me, as opposed to a, ‘What-are-you-going-to-do-for-me-coach’ attitude. That’s the strength of our program.”
The relationships that I’ve developed, starting from the beginning at Cascade, just built my love for what I was doing.
Cary Cada, longtime Borah boys basketball coach
While Cada proved to be an exceptional basketball coach, his skills as a player were lacking.
“I wasn’t very good,” Cada said. “When I was a sophomore, I was 5-foot-1 and weighed 98 pounds. When I graduated (from high school), I was 5-6 and weighed 123. Not only was I so small, I wasn’t that good.
“But I absolutely lived and breathed basketball.”
Cada said he always knew he wanted to be a coach, and after graduating from Midvale High, he earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary English from Boise State. During his time at BSU, Cada helped start a trap shooting team and earned All-American status as a sophomore.
As a senior, Cada got an internship under then-Capital coach Charlie Henry, serving as the JV coach and varsity assistant in 1979-80.
Upon graduation, Cada applied to be a teacher and head boys basketball coach at Cascade High in 1980. Although he was originally passed over for the job, Cada got a call in August with an offer to teach English, serve as the school librarian and coach basketball.
“This is speculation, but I think with Charlie Henry’s recommendation from Capital, I got the job,” Cada said.
He stayed at Cascade through 1984, taking the Ramblers to state twice in four seasons while also coaching golf and junior high track.
“My intention was never to stay at a small school,” Cada said. “More than anything, I wanted to be a head coach at a large school in Boise.”
In the fall of 1984, Cada was invited to be the sophomore ‘A’ coach at Borah and a varsity assistant under Kirk Williams. He remained in that position until 1994, when he took over for Williams after the Lions had won back-to-back state titles.
“I was so fired up,” Cada said. “I couldn’t wait to get going. That was my dream job.”
For the past 22 years, Borah has benefited from Cada’s enthusiasm. His ability to connect with players as a coach and friend have helped him maintain relationships long after players graduate.
“His line is, ‘It’s better to go 0-20 and do things the right way than go 20-0 and do it the wrong way,’ ” Varela said. “He is a guy that does it the right way.
“He stresses the student-athlete. Students always have to get good grades. That’s the primary emphasis. He would always talk about the fact that basketball will end one day, but what you do in terms of education will last a lot longer.”
If he ever came home from a game frustrated or angry, Cada’s wife, Danielle, kept him in check.
“She’s the one that kept me grounded through it all. She always did,” Cada said. “I don’t know how many times I would be so pissed off about somebody and she would snap me off with a reminder that, ‘That’s somebody’s kid. That’s somebody’s son you’re talking about. Knock it off.’ And she was right.”
Cada isn’t worried about how he’ll fill his time during retirement. He already has plans to fish, hunt and work on his family’s cattle ranch near Midvale.
But should the coaching bug ever return, he can put his energy into teaching granddaughters Tilly Jo (5) and Addi (2).
“That’s my next big coaching job,” Cada said. “It’s nice to retire and know that my biggest coaching days are ahead of me coaching those two.”
Rachel Roberts: 208-377-6422
Borah coaching search begins
Now that Cary Cada has officially announced his retirement, the Borah High administration will begin the process of searching for his replacement. The Lions have only had two varsity coaches since 1978 — Cada (1994-2016) and Kirk Williams (1978-1994).