Basketball guru has turned Trojans into perennial power

Darryl Rayfield has built East Troy into an area high school hoops destination. (Eric Kramer/SLN)

 

By Troy Sparks

Sports Correspondent

There’s no doubt that Darryl Rayfield is passionate about coaching. People who watch Rayfield in action during an East Troy boys varsity game are used to it.

If that’s how you want to judge Rayfield’s animation on the sideline – the stomping and yelling at his players when they make a mistake – then you don’t really know him. He also is the same coach who will praise his guys when they give their best effort and leave it on the floor, win or lose.

“There’s no manipulating anything to get what you want,” said Darin Lottig, a former boys varsity basketball coach. “You go to East Troy. This is what you get. You’re either all in or get out. The rigor of that program is second to none. If you aren’t going to embrace everything that goes with it, you’re not going to survive it.”

The 59-year-old Rayfield was voted the Southern Lakes Newspapers’ coach of the year by a panel of sportswriters who cover the region.

Whatever one thinks of Rayfield’s style, they can’t dispute the results during his seven years as the Trojans’ head coach.

“I think what makes my style or the way we go about it is that kids have been with us for so long,” Rayfield said. “So, our reasons for going about it that way are that they’re accustomed to (knowing) that’s how we do things there.

“They know I have their back and I’m honest with them and there’s a purpose of how we go about I,” Rayfield added. “It’s not just, ‘Hey, you fly off the handle or you’re giving them hard coaching.’ It’s been a process that we’ve been doing for the last 10 years. I think when you do that, they’re already aware and accustomed to having that stuff happen.”

Every player who has been a part of the East Troy boys varsity basketball program during Rayfield’s tenure already knew or knows what they signed up for.

“I knew what to expect,” three-year varsity senior Nick Bourdo said. “As I actually played on varsity for him, everything started to really make sense, and I started to appreciate how good of a coach that Coach Rayfield really is. He has the respect from all the players and he really knows his basketball. I definitely wouldn’t have wanted any other kind of coach for high school.”

All-State sophomore guard-forward AJ Vukovich saw Rayfield’s coaching passion firsthand when he joined the varsity team as a freshman.

“My first reaction was that he’s really dedicated to his job here,” he said. “It obviously shows because East Troy has a history of winning all the time. I just look at it as it’s about the players and he’s passionate about his job. It obviously pays off and I don’t mind it. Everybody here, I think, is used to it. And it just shows how much he cares about the program.”

Before Rayfield was hired as the head coach beginning with the 2011-12 season, the Trojans only made it to state once (1989).

Under Rayfield’s guidance, East Troy made it to Madison three times in the last six years (2013, ’15, ’18). Rayfield is 136-44 overall and 95-13 in the Rock Valley Conference. East Troy is a four-time conference champion (2012, ’13, ‘16 and ’18) and recorded back-to-back undefeated conference seasons (2012, ’13). The Trojans finished second in 2014 and ’15 and third in 2017.

“When I was brought over here, I was coaching a lot of AAU basketball and had been an assistant at a couple of schools,” Rayfield said. “And when my son (Rion) went on to play at Florida Southern, I got out of coaching for a while just to watch him play in Florida. So, when they brought me over here, they had an opportunity to (win and get to state). Our goal was always (not just) getting to Madison (to lose). To get to Madison and win a gold ball is what we are all about now.”

Sophomore guard Quenten Lottig wanted to be challenged and become part of a winning tradition. So after a discussion with his parents, it was in Quenten’s best interest to transfer to East Troy after his freshman year, even if it meant commuting the 50 minutes round-trip from Lake Geneva.

“My kid is in his program right now,” Darin Lottig said. “(Rayfield) will never, until the day he’s dead, turn his back on my kid. He teaches kids about expectations, about loyalty and will get in the (fox)hole with you.

“If my kid has a problem, Ray is there,” Darin Lottig added. “And if my kid is causing a problem, Ray will fix it. He’s hard on him. He’s really hard on him. But that’s what we want. I would say in a world where everybody is preventing people from failing, he teaches people how to fix their failures, how to fail and rise.”

Rion Rayfield understands the relationship between father-son and coach-player like all kids who are coached by their parents and how to make the adjustment accordingly.

“I think it was an easy separation, maybe not right away after a game,” Rion Rayfield said. “We would always talk about the game or we would talk about different things the next day. After we went to bed, everything would be perfect and back to normal.”

Darryl Rayfield was an assistant at Burlington Catholic Central during Rion’s senior year. The Crusaders won the 2006 Division 4 state championship. Rion didn’t get any breaks just because he was the son of a coach.

“He had a higher standard for me, obviously like any other parent would have for their own kids,” Rion said. “He wouldn’t let anybody slack. If you weren’t taking care of your job, he would let you have it a little bit. We put in a lot of hard work (for me) to be one of the better players in the state at that time. I think the expectations were obviously a little greater than maybe most of the average high school kids.”

What makes Rayfield proud is when former players such as Tanner Plomb (Army), Brett and Alex Prahl (UW-Milwaukee), Myles Olsen (Carthage College), Nate Dodge (UW-Stevens Point), Jake Nixon (Ripon), Joe Ciriacs (St. Norbert) and Jon Ciriacs (UW-Stout) return to East Troy and interact with the present guys on the team.

“Those guys all come back and play with our kids during breaks in the summer,” Rayfield said. “They come and jell with our younger guys. They give back. It’s all really good.”

 

 

 
 

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