CROWN POINT -- Long before the state of Indiana recognized the obvious, I knew Pete Iussig was a Hall of Fame softball coach.
The best of the best. The cream of the crop. The top step of the ladder.
He coached the Lowell Red Devils for 25 years and the Crown Point Bulldogs for three. His career record was 524-293-1.
When Iussig stepped down at C.P. a couple of weeks ago, this was his third retirement. Yes, he is the Phil Jackson of Region softball.
“Oh, come on,” Iussig said. “This is the last time.”
The 2011 Indiana Softball Hall of Fame inductee is a legend in this game. But he said it’s time to stop wearing mittens and long johns for three and a half months every spring.
Iussig said the weather was part of his decision, along with making game decisions that make people unhappy, one of the toughest things about coaching at the high school level.
“Awhile back if someone got upset about something (in a game) I would just say, ‘Get over it,’” Iussig said. “Now, I’m 63. I’m tired of making those kind of decisions.”
The Merrillville graduate took the Red Devils to two state finals. He took over at Crown Point and led the Bulldogs to the 2017 Class 4A state championship.
This is a winner. Period.
I covered the sectional at Lake Central this season, where C.P. won. But as I was leaving for the car, I heard pockets of people complaining about things that he did with his lineup. And they were wearing red.
I’ve been around this game a very long time, and have a daughter still playing at the college level. I’ve always felt that softball fans might be the craziest of all sports. When most of the kids on a high school team were “coached” by their dads, it is often a train wreck ready to happen.
Iussig did something I’d never seen before. He used three different pitchers -- Madi Elish, Madi Young, and Brinkley Kita -- in the circle during the playoff run that ended in the semi state championship game.
I was like, wow. How is this going to work?
Word on the street is that some family members were not happy with this strategy. Conversations were made to someone, somewhere about this “wrong.” And when a coach of this stature, who has taken C.P. to a place it had never been before, has to hear about this, you can guess why the Region’s greatest coach in history chose to walk away.
Iussig said he would not speak about such things. He has his state ring and there is no one who can take that away.
Crown Point recently hired Angie Richwalski as the Bulldogs new head coach. If she is allowed to coach with no strings attached I am sure the Bulldogs will continue to be very good.
But if a parent has her number on speed dial to chat about who is playing where each day, C.P. will fall back to where it once was before Iussig arrived. A lot of big headlines with no state championships.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
The saddest thing is saying good-bye to Pete. The softball diamonds will not be the same without him being out there doing his 'thang.'
You will be missed coached. That is a lock.