2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 6/29/2016 5:50 PM

Supporters rally behind Maine West basketball legend Derril Kipp

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  • Maine West girls basketball coach Derril Kipp, an icon in Illinois high school girls basketball, is drawing support from all corners in his fight against pancreatic cancer.

      Maine West girls basketball coach Derril Kipp, an icon in Illinois high school girls basketball, is drawing support from all corners in his fight against pancreatic cancer.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

 
 

Twenty eight years ago, York girls basketball coach Don Hudgens was pulling for his team to upset nationally ranked Maine West at Assembly Hall in Champaign.

The Warriors were coached by Derril Kipp, whose team entered the Class AA state championship game in 1988 with a 34-0 record.

Today, Hudgens and countless others are pulling for Kipp, 71, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year.

Kipp's 1987-88 team won that championship game 46-37 over York to complete one of the few undefeated seasons in IHSA girls basketball history.

Kipp, an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame member (class of 2001), has totaled 788 wins and only 316 losses in 35 seasons, ranking as the fifth-winningest Illinois coach in the sport's history.

He has won 26 Central Suburban North championships, 24 regional titles, 10 sectionals and appeared in the state finals with seven teams from 1983 to 1993, the year his Warriors were state runner-ups.

"He's a great guy," said Hudgens, who is retired in Richmond, Va. "He created basketball leagues. He did AAU programs. He's really taken care of his players and always tried to get them scholarships."

Nearly 80 girls from Maine West programs have earned scholarships since Kipp took over the program in 1981.

"He is certainly one of the pioneers in women's basketball in the northwest suburbs," Hudgens said.

Kipp, who once was the interim football coach at Maine West, is always about getting exposure for girls basketball. His passion for the sport is apparent in many ways.

He started a summer league at Maine West in the 1980s that attracted nearly 100 teams at one point.

"That basketball league was unreal," Hudgens said. "Can you imagine having a better facility to hold it at, with its main spectator gym and two satellite gyms?

"It had to be the biggest basketball league for high school I'd ever heard of. Just to organize it took a lot of work. And it gave Derril's kids a great opportunity to play a lot. If someone didn't show up, Maine West's team would fill the bill."

Kipp's Warriors drew top billing state-wide and from the Chicago media when they set an IHSA record with 65 consecutive wins from Feb. 28, 1987 to Feb 13, 1989.

Kipp also coached the Warriors to 110 straight conference wins.

"I don't know how he did it everything," Hudgens said. "He was a great friend to me. If you wanted anything, Derril would do it for you. Whatever you need, he is always there for you."

Fenwick coach Dave Power, who has won three state titles combined with the Friars and Immaculate Heart of Mary, has enjoyed a long association with Kipp.

"I go back with Derril to when girls basketball was in its infancy," said Power, who also coached at Proviso West. "It's unbelievable to think of all the great memories and things he has done for kids -- all the traveling he did with the Illinois Hustle (his AAU program) and all the kids he coached and helped in so many ways."

All of whom are rooting for Kipp, which is reflected on a tribute page on Facebook with numerous letters of thanks and fond memories.

"I love coach Kipp," said Brooks (Chicago) girls basketball coach and athletic director Reggie Dawson. "He's taught me so much about life and basketball."

Dawson was coaching at Whitney Young High School when he and college teammate Mark Vaporis, a Maine West graduate, visited Vaporis' alma mater one weekend.

"That's where I met Mr. Kipp," Dawson said. "He picked me up and opened my eyes to the world of basketball. He told me to come back to Maine West when he was having his tournament.

"My opinion is that he is my father and took a young boy and made me the person I am today. It's amazing."

It's amazing to see how many lives Kipp has affected.

Here are just a few:

Jamie Pekoe Dickens, an all-area player on Kipp's 1993 Elite Eight team: "Thank you Derril for yelling when you believed we had more to give, for pushing us to get up when we were down, and making us laugh when things got too serious. It was just a game after all. The best game in the world. Thank you for making us believe we could take on the world as a team. We can never repay what you gave, and we will never forget what you taught us."

Brittany DeCesare, a member of West's 2007 sectional championship team: "What I can say is that you are truly an amazing man. You made high school one hell of a time for us girls, and kept some of us from getting into a lot of trouble. You always stood by our sides and never gave up on us. Being a father figure to some, best friend to most, and an amazing coach to all. It is our time to stand by you and root for you now. My prayers are with you and your family."

Michelle Galindo (from 1997 Central Suburban League North and regional championship team): "Looking back, God has always had his hand in my life and Mr. Kipp in it is evidence. You not only taught me how to play but how to believe in others, give people a chance and lend a helping hand. You believed in me and gave me so many opportunities. You found a great college I could play at and truly impacted the direction of my life. Mr. Kipp, we are behind you in your fight."

Julia Sansone Maldanado: "I was just someone in the stands who watched you coach my friends. What I can tell you is that you were always so kind to me. Always a hello when you saw me in the halls and always a wave to the bleachers where I sat. All because your players were my friends and you appreciated our support. That's a classy coach, leader and man. You've touched so many who remember you, without you even knowing it. Even the ones who never touched the ball. God bless you Derril Kipp."

• • •

Those are just a few of many tributes that have come in for Kipp, who is also a reporter's best friend. He is always willing to cooperate with the media, taking pride in making sure both his wins and losses were reported.

Of course, there have been way more wins because he has been a winner is so many ways.

His wife, Marianne, and daughters Tabitha, Dori and Lindsay, are always there for support.

As Barrington girls basketball coach Babbi Barreiro says, Kipp has been a pillar for so many coaches and players.

"And truly an icon in the world of Illinois girls basketball," said Barreiro, the dean of Mid-Suburban League girls basketball coaches. "I remember playing against his teams when I played at Elk Grove and then feeling lucky enough to learn from him as a coach through coaching against him."

In typical fashion, Kipp was the first coach to call Barreiro when she got the head job at Barrington 20-plus years ago.

"I will never forget that," she said. "I felt so honored and appreciative that he took the time to reach out. He is a true teacher of the game and a true teacher of grace in both winning and in the rare seasons when he lost some. He and his family are in my thoughts daily these days."

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