I’ve known Shane Cordell from the time I started covering sports in this area 35 years ago.
And I’m guessing that after his Little River girls defeated Goessel 40-27 Thursday night for his 600th victory as basketball coach, the last thing he wanted was everyone to make a fuss about it.
That’s just Shane. He’s as old as old school can be. He coaches like those in my era, back in the 1970s. He’s tough, but fair. He treats everyone the same. He has only the kids’ best interests at heart.
Cordell is a Little River legend. He grew up there and was part of a pair of Little River state championship football teams. He eventually capped his playing career at Fort Hays State before returning to Little River.
He coached three football teams to state championships. But it’s girls basketball where he’s become most famous.
Who will ever forget his teams of the 1990s when they won four straight Class 1A state championships and 91 games in a row? The two games with McPherson High in the finals of the Mid America Classic were legendary as it was the great little school against the great big school, both at their peak. When those two teams clashed, the Roundhouse doors were closed because no more people could squeeze in, probably the last time we had an honest-to-goodness old-fashioned Roundhouse crowd where people stood around the top and fans overflowed into the aisles.
I remember the likes of Nicky Ramage, Hilarie Raleigh and those pesky, bedeviling Prose twins, who were swashbucklers and played with an attitude like no girls I had ever seen. There were a couple of years Cordell’s teams were so deep that his second team probably could have won 15 games, they were that talented. Little River’s defense was so suffocating and the offense so precise. It wouldn’t have mattered what class the Redskins played in, they would have beaten anybody. 6A, 5A — none of them would have stood a chance. In fact, McPherson High won the Class 5A state championship in 1997, but lost 62-48 to the Redskins in the final of the Mid America Classic.
I remember covering the Little River-Claflin game at Little River when people started arriving at 1:30 for a 6:00 game. Claflin, of course, featured the redoubtable Jackie Stiles. As brilliant as Stiles was on that night — 53 points — 32 by Ramage and the overall talent of the Redskins allowed them to prevail. They of course went on to win the state title that year.
Cordell was blessed to coach all eight of his children either in football or basketball. They all excelled and my guess is that he probably was tougher on them than the other players on the team because he wanted them to be the best they could be.
When I worked for the newspaper, I would go over to Little River twice a year for my football and basketball previews. He would always greet me with “how’s it goin’ big guy?” and we’d talk more about life than sports. Shane has a wonderful approach to life, never too high and never too low. I wish every coach could learn from him.
I don’t know how much longer he’s going to coach girls basketball, but my guess is he’s getting pretty close to the end. He’ll take take his bow out for some target practice and just enjoy being a husband, father and grandfather.
I certainly wish that at some point Little River will name its basketball court or football field in his honor. After everything he’s done for the community, he certainly deserves it. He’ll probably protest being as humble as he is, but I think it’s a must.
I’m proud that I’ve been able to call Shane a friend for 35 years. We’re always told in the journalism profession that we’re not supposed to be close friends with the coaches we cover, but for Shane, I waive that rule. He’s been one of my all-time favorites and has been one of the reasons what I do isn’t a job, it’s fun. The day it becomes a job is the day I get out. And with people like Shane, that won’t happen for a long time.