‘Love what I do’: Canistota’s Jolley reaches 400 career wins in 33rd season

"It’s just been in my blood and I really still enjoy it," Pat Jolley said

Canistota's Pat Jolley, middle, recorded his 400th career coaching win on Monday. Pat is pictured with his sons and wife, from left to right: Shay, Scott, Brenda, Sean and Sam Jolley.

Pat Jolley is heeding his own advice.

The Canistota boys basketball coach tells his players and students to choose a job they love, and they will never work a day in their life. Jolley, a teacher and coach for more than 30 years, is living proof of that mantra.

“I just love what I do,” Jolley said. “I tell my students and my players, if you love going to work every day, you should be happy. I am fortunate in that aspect that I don’t have regrets being a teacher or a coach.”

It’s also served him well on the basketball court and helped him reach a coaching milestone on Monday against Ethan. Jolley recorded his 400th career coaching win in 33 seasons as a head coach against the Rustlers.

He credited his current and former players, his assistant coaches and all the sacrifice for achieving the milestone.


“It takes a lot of behind the scenes work to get wins at all,” Jolley added about the milestone. “... It’s just been in my blood and I really still enjoy it.”

Canistota coach.jpg
Canistota's Pat Jolley diagrams a play at the Hanson Classic on Jan. 23.

Jolley, 64, is one of 29 South Dakota boys basketball coaches to surpass 400 wins. Former Custer coach Larry Luitjens is the all-time leader with 748 wins.

Jolley can’t help but appreciate the magnitude of the milestone and being mentioned in the same sentence as other coaching giants.

“When I was younger, I would try to scout their teams and pick things up from successful people,” Jolley said. “When you have this much success, you probably were influenced by some of the guys that you were coaching against, because you knew you better be prepared, or you weren’t going to win.”

Jolley was a 1974 Sully Buttes graduate and that’s where his competitive juices started flowing. Jolley grew up in Blunt, which began a co-op with Onida after his eighth-grade year and became Sully Buttes.

“The competition level to be able to play in athletics was so great there,” said Jolley, who was a starter on the Chargers’ 1974 state consolation championship team.


The Dan Sutera-coached Chargers were powered by all-staters and brothers Jeff and Jamie Lamb. They also left a lasting impression on Jolley.

“They were the most competitive people I have ever been around in high school and that really as a player made me realize how hard you have to work and how hard you can play,” Jolley said. “I still take things with me every day to work that I learned at Sully Buttes High School.”

After attending South Dakota State University for two years, Jolley transferred to and graduated from Black Hills State University in 1980. That’s where he decided to get into coaching and teaching.

He missed being around high school athletics and knew by his sophomore year he wanted to coach. After coaching and teaching at Spencer for five years, Jolley joined the Canistota School District.

Jolley coached for 13 straight years, and after taking a five-year coaching break, he returned to the sidelines in 2000. He’s since coached all four of his sons -- Sean, Sam, Shay and Scott -- on the basketball court.

Pat Jolley experienced both the highs and lows with his sons. Sam was an all-stater on the 2011 Canistota team, which qualified for its first state tourney since 1958. Scott Jolley was a starter on the 2018 state tournament team.

“I have seen both sides of it, where your sons are practically in tears because his career is over and then on the other hand, being able to hug your son at the region championship and go to the state tournament,” Pat Jolley said. “But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The time I got to be their coach and spend with them was priceless.”

Pat also praised his wife, Brenda, for standing by him through all his years coaching basketball. Brenda is a first-grade teacher at Canistota, while Pat teaches social studies.


“There’s difficult times going through a coaching career, too,” Pat Jolley said. “My wife has always supported me. Your wife supporting you is really valuable, too. It’s not easy being a coach’s wife all the time either.”

Currently, the Hawks are 11-1 and ranked No. 4 in the latest Class B poll. Canistota qualified for last season’s state tournament, which was canceled due to COVID-19.

Jolley doesn’t have a timeline for how much longer he’ll coach. He’s just enjoying the current group of Hawks and coming into work each day.

“I am still really enjoying it and teaching is the same way,” he said. “As long as I get up in the morning, and don’t have any issues whatsoever about coming to teach, and then going to the gym after school, I am going to keep doing it.”

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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