Derril Kipp was remembered for his devotion to family, sense of humor and his legacy as the fifth-winningest girls basketball coach in Illinois history during a memorial service Saturday at Maine West High School in Des Plaines.
About 500 people in the stands at Maine West's spectator gymnasium -- a place that was Kipp's second home -- heard stories from his wife, former players and friends who were touched by him over his storied career. Visitors had a chance to walk around the basketball court to view scores of photographs, awards and other mementos collected from the past 35 years Kipp led Maine West's girls basketball squad.
Kipp, 71, of Palatine, who recorded 788 wins with the Warriors, died July 5. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year.
Former Warriors player Julia Huinker, who graduated in 2014, began the celebration by singing the national anthem. She was followed by Robbie deMarigny, the lead pastor of Branch Community Church in Chicago, whose wife, Kim, is a Maine West assistant girls basketball coach.
DeMarigny told the crowd about Kipp's vision for his work. The pastor said Kipp succeeded in his plan to develop young women through basketball so they could become successful in life, and not just sports.
Kipp was a great friend, family man and basketball coach whose loss should be mourned, deMarigny said. However, he added, the crowd did not gather just in sorrow in the gym where Kipp elevated high school girls basketball.
"We are here to celebrate a life well-lived," deMarigny said. "We are here to celebrate and see this amazing legacy of love that he left behind. And we are also here to celebrate the fact we believe Derril Kipp is more alive today than he's ever been. We believe that Derril's work here on earth is done, and he's gone home to be with Jesus."
Kipp's wife, Marianne, who rarely missed a home or away game, remembered how he pursued her for a date at Western Illinois University in Macomb, and that her strict father wasn't thrilled about the news. Her dad didn't want her dating a "college man" who belonged to a fraternity.
She said her late husband had a good sense of humor that included pulling pranks. As a father, he wanted nothing but the best for the couple's three daughters, Tabitha, Dori and Lindsay.
"He was a beautiful, loving man," Marianne Kipp said.
Mary Spielman was on Kipp's undefeated state champion girls basketball team in the 1987-88 season. She said she was fortunate to visit Kipp at his home June 21 to let him know how much he meant to her as a coach, teacher and friend.
"You're the coach who saw more in his players than any of us could ever see in ourselves," Spielman said. "You're fierce, confident and great, especially dealing with multiple teenage girls on a daily basis for hours on end in Maine West's gym."
Kipp recorded the third-most victories by a coach at one high school. He was enshrined in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2001.
Spielman was on Kipp's teams that notched 65 consecutive wins from Feb. 28, 1987, to Feb 13, 1989, which remains an Illinois High School Association record. She said Kipp's greatness as a coach showed when he scheduled the toughest opponents he could find for the defending state champs to start the 1988-89 season.
"I remember looking at that schedule, saying to myself, 'What is this guy thinking?'" Spielman said. "It's my senior year. I don't want to lose. Why are we playing all these tough teams up front? Well, I come to find out you did what the best coaches do. You set us up against the most challenging competition out there so that we never got a chance to let our guard down. You did it so that we were forced to play to our maximum potential every single game."