KEARNEY — Jerome Skrdla didn’t come to Kearney Catholic High School to coach girls basketball.
But on Oct. 4, the current Gretna coach will be inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame primarily for his success coaching girls basketball at KCHS, Fort Calhoun and Gretna — a career that has seen his teams win three state championships and 560 games.
“I’m surprised and very honored,” he said. “When you see the people who get in and you realize what an honor it is to get in there, you don’t ever think you will be in that consideration.”
The Hall of Fame announced last weekend its 2020 induction class, which includes 12 athletes, five coaches, three contributors and an official.
After graduating from Kearney State College, Skrdla landed at KCHS as the head track coach and assistant football coach.
“I never thought I would coach basketball. I loved football, diagramming plays and the strategy, and I always loved track,” Skrdla said.
But the dominoes fell a different way, even though he was the head coach of the Stars when they reached the 1982 state football finals and the track coach when the KCHS boys won the state track title in 1986.
Basketball came by accident.
He had helped out kids during open gym and at various times with shooting techniques and other fundamentals and when there was an opening for an assistant coach, some of the girls asked him to come on board.
That lasted a couple of years. Then Father Jack Rademacher, the girls coach, got reassigned and the football coach left for the principal position at Wilcox, Skrdla took over both programs, giving him three head-coaching hats.
He did that for one year, but didn’t think he could do them all justice and went to school officials and asked them to take one away. They took away football.
Ironically, Skrdla started the cross country program the next year, “but cross country was a little less demanding,” he said.
Meanwhile, he found girls basketball fit him well. He led the Stars to back-to-back state titles in 1984 and 1985 and a 55-game winning streak.
He left KCHS in 1987 for Fort Calhoun, taking that team to the state tournament in 1992.
Since 1994, he’s been at Gretna where the Dragons have qualified for the state tournament 15 times since 2000 and gave him the highlight of his career, the state championship in 2006 with his daughter Stefanie (currently Kearney High School librarian Stefanie Green) on the team and his youngest daughter a student manager.
“That was special for our whole family,” he said.
Skrdla is one of three Hub Territory people who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this fall, joining Eddyville native Elroy Pierce and Hildreth legend Glenwood Einspahr.
Like Skrdla, Pierce will be inducted as a coach. All but three of his 50 years in the coaching profession came at Eustis and Eustis/Farnam. He has coached football, boys and girls basketball, track, cross country and golf during his career with the majority of his coaching success in track.
From 1987 to 1994, the Eustis-Farnam girls won three state track championships and four runner-up trophies. The streak included 33 consecutive major meet titles.
Einspahr was an all-state basketball player in 1949 and 1950, leading the Greyhounds to a state title in 1949. He set a Class D state tournament scoring record with 34 points in Hildreth’s first-round win over Garland in 1949.
He also stood out in track, winning a co-championship trophy at the state track meet in 1950. Competing alone, and without a coach, he won the 100- and 220-yard dashes, finished second in the long jump and was fifth in the high jump.