At 84, this athlete shows no sign of slowing down
Don’t tell Paul Sexton that at the age of 84 you just have to sit around in a rocking chair.
The former Shawnee Mission South boys basketball coach and Olathe resident is still active and still following the game of basketball. When the weather permits he can be found on a golf course four days a week.
Sexton was the Raiders’ basketball coach for 19 years from 1977 through 1996. During his tenure as the coach his teams posted a 255-131 record. The Raiders were undefeated at 24-0 in 1990, second in 1983, third in 1988 and fourth in 1978.
His teams captured seven Sunflower League titles.
It was his high school coach, Joe Urban, in Meade, Kansas that sparked his interest in becoming a high school coach.
“I loved sports and participated in football, basketball and track,” he says. “We had the same coach for all three, Joe Urban.
“All of us players idolized him. He had a huge impact on my career decision, helping me get a basketball scholarship to Dodge City Community College.”
His college career at Washburn University in Topeka was interrupted by two years in the Army.
His coaching career included stops in Liberal, Topeka Highland Park and Manhattan before becoming the SM South coach in 1977. His career record was 477-296.
Now retired athletic director Bill Tiegreen hired Sexton.
“SM South athletic program experienced a very high degree of success from 1966 through 1992 (when Tiegreen was athletic director), due to the excellence of the coaching staff and Paul Sexton was of the most successful of them,” Tiegreen says. “He is a winner in more than just his coaching ability.
“His concern about the development and mentoring of the young men he was coaching, also included helping them to develop skills needed for successful adult living.”
Kevin Rabbitt was the senior point guard on the undefeated and state championship team in 1990. He is now the CEO of NEP Group, Inc., in Pittsburgh, Penn., an international company that provides video services for a number of sports events, concerts and awards shows across the globe.
“As the leader of the team, Coach Sexton was the rock that guided the success of the program,” says Rabbitt. “He adjusted his style each year based on personnel playing to the strengths of his team.
“He was known for his game preparation, making sure his team was prepared for the opponent, yet he knew that the opponents needed to adjust to SMS more than adjusted to them. He instilled confidence in his team and never over-coached in a game situation. He trusted his players to make good decisions and took their input on critical decisions.”
The former SM South coach doesn’t want to single out any players from his long coaching career.
“In my 38 years of coaching, there are simply too many outstanding players to single out just a few,” he says. “Each one brought his passion and skills to the game in his own way. I am grateful for their commitment and I’m proud of every one.”
Sexton has been out of coaching for 19 years now, but is still an avid fan of high school and college basketball.
What changes has he seen in the sport?
“The game and coaching has changed quite a bit since I retired,” he says. “The three-point shot is much more prevalent now and the game is much more physical, hard-driving and fast paced with a lot of hand-checking.
“Rules about recruitment of players from outside attendance boundaries have relaxed tremendously. That has had a huge impact on the game in our area.”