For 28 years, a boys basketball game at Centennial High hasn’t been played without Tom Aipperspach on the sideline.
While the veteran coach made the difficult decision this offseason to retire from a career that includes 434 wins and 197 losses in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference, an Aipperspach will once again be on the sideline when a new season begins this fall.
Josh Aipperspach, who played for and coached under his dad, was hired last week to take over the program. He is only the third coach in the Patriots’ history, and he knows he has some big, albeit familiar, shoes to fill.
Tom won 12 SIC regular-season titles, eight district championships and two state titles. He led the Patriots to a rare unbeaten season and a state championship in 1994-95. He was voted the 5A SIC coach of the year nine times and the state coach of the year twice.
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“I do know there for years, Tom had to have the highest winning percentage of any coach in Idaho,” Borah coach Cary Cada said. “More importantly than any of that, Tom won and lost with more dignity and grace than any coach I have ever coached against.
“Win or lose, he was a pure gentleman after the game, during the game and I’ll always have the utmost respect for him because of that alone.”
Tom didn’t just have an impact on opposing coaches. Many of his former players have maintained a friendship with their coach long after their high school days.
“I’m 30-plus years old and he still cares. When you see him, he’ll come up, and him and his wife will give you a big hug. That’s the lasting memory I have of him,” said Clint Hordemann, who played on Centennial’s 1994-95 state championship team and later for Boise State. “He’s a person who cares so much more about kids than even just the hoops. It wasn’t just about the basketball. It was about caring about us long after we were gone.”
Tom retired from teaching fitness at Centennial four years ago but wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to basketball.
This spring, he finally decided he’d “had a good run.”
“I thought the timing was right for not only me, but Josh has been around as our JV coach for a long time, and obviously I hoped that he would get (the job) because he knows the tradition and everything that’s gone on,” Tom said. “Although he will do things I’m sure much differently than I do, but that was kind of the basis for the whole thing. It was time to move on and do other things. My wife has been a great coach’s wife, and it’s time to do some things in the winter that she wants to do.”
Although Josh said he didn’t set out to follow his dad’s career path, he is honored to be chosen as the coach to carry on his dad’s tradition.
Josh — who even coaches fitness at Centennial like his dad — has been in the Centennial basketball program as a coach for 11 years, including the past seven as the JV head coach.
“Growing up playing basketball and baseball, baseball was always kind of my thing,” Josh said. “But then I just kind of fell in love later in life with basketball. After I started teaching and coaching, I knew that I loved the game so much that basketball was what I wanted to continue to do.”