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Marquardt making the basketball rounds

Bill Marquardt gives instructions to the Mount Vernon/Plankinton girls basketball team last season. Marquardt is retired, but he's still around the game. (Eric Mayer / Republic)

Bill Marquardt has stepped away from coaching basketball, but he hasn't stepped away from basketball.

Marquardt, 66, retired from teaching in April 2013, but continued to coach the Mount Vernon/Plankinton girls basketball team the past four seasons. Marquardt made a big commitment every day as he drove 100 miles daily from Salem to coach the Titans.

"I had been at it a lot longer than I ever expected to and I knew it was going to happen sometime," Marquardt said. "Mount Vernon had a teaching opening. I had talked to (Mount Vernon Athletic Director) Eric Denning a couple of years ago that if they ever had the opportunity to get someone long-term they should do it and I think they had the opportunity to make a great hire and they did it."

Marquardt, who was replaced by Preston Kristensen, is now without a team this winter after coaching athletics for 40 years and he's at peace with that — sometimes.

"I can't really picture anything changing," Marquardt said. "But I also catch myself thinking 'What did I do?'"

He's found other ways to fill the basketball void.

"It's not only been my job, it's been my hobby and my thing I have spent most of my time at," Marquardt said. "So I have had second thoughts and questioned whether I've done the right thing, but in the next moment, I am having fun watching games and spending a lot more time with my grandson than I would not have been otherwise."

Marquardt and his wife, Laura, recently went on an 11-day basketball expedition through Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. They watched both Colorado State University basketball teams play in Fort Collins, Colorado and the South Dakota State University at Kansas men's basketball game in Lawrence, Kansas on Nov. 17.

"I have always wanted to see a game at Allen Fieldhouse," Marquardt said. "It was an amazing experience, even though the Jacks didn't compete as well as I know they would have liked. Then I saw Kansas women's game just because we happened to be there."

The Marquardts completed the trip in Kansas City, Missouri, for the Hall of Fame Classic by watching Wisconsin vs. Baylor and UCLA vs. Creighton on Nov. 20.

As for this winter, Marquardt will continue attending basketball games, but just closer to home. Marquardt's daughter, Dana Bigge, is an assistant coach for the Harrisburg girls and he's got a pair of nieces playing for Brandon Valley this season.

But Marquardt, who's coached both boys and girls basketball and football, isn't completely shutting the door on a comeback.

"Basketball and coaching have been a passion for me," he said. "If I don't handle it right and something else comes up, I am not going to slam the door on it."