Lawrence University men’s basketball coach Joel DePagter has stepped down from his post, Director of Athletics Christyn Abaray announced.
DePagter was in his 11th season at Lawrence as the Vikings’ head coach and has been with the program in some capacity for more than two decades.
“Joel has decided to move on from Lawrence effective immediately,” Abaray said. “Joel has been with the LU Vikings program for more 20 years as a student-athlete, an assistant coach and a head coach, amassing many honors and accolades along the way.”
Abaray also announced that assistant coach Chris Kellett has been named the interim head coach. Kellett is in his second stint with the Vikings after rejoining the staff before the 2015-16 season. A Neenah, Wis., native, Kellett was an assistant coach with the Vikings for three seasons from 2010-13. In between, Kellett was the head varsity boys’ basketball coach at Shawano Community High School from 2013-15.
In two seasons at Shawano, Kellett’s teams compiled a record of 35-15 and the team reached the WIAA sectionals in both seasons. During his time at Shawano, the Hawks cracked the top 10 in state basketball rankings and defeated multiple top-10 ranked teams.
Kellett, who teaches at Taft Elementary School in Neenah, is a 2009 graduate of Ripon College where he was a four-time All-Midwest Conference selection in football and a standout basketball player who scored nearly 1,000 points in his career.
DePagter compiled a record of 134-111 in 10-plus seasons as Lawrence’s head coach. Elevated to the position of head coach in April 2007 after spending the previous four seasons as an assistant, DePagter’s Vikings won the Midwest Conference championship and Midwest Conference Tournament titles in 2008 and 2009 and played in the NCAA Division III Tournament in both seasons.
DePagter, a native of Sheboygan, Wis., won 2009 MWC Coach of the Year honors after leading his team to its second consecutive conference title and MWC Tournament title. DePagter hit several firsts with the award. He remains the only man in Midwest Conference history to be named the Coach of the Year and Player of the Year. Also, he is the first coach to win conference championships in his first two seasons as head coach.
DePagter played three seasons at Lawrence and is regarded as one of the greatest players in school history. He was named first-team All-MWC all three years (1996, 1997 and 1998), and was chosen as the conference Player of the Year in 1997, the same year Lawrence captured the league title. DePagter was inducted into the Lawrence University Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008.
A 1998 Lawrence graduate with a bachelor’s degree in history, DePagter served as an assistant coach for the Vikings in the 1999-2000 season. DePagter received his master’s degree in sports administration from Central Michigan University and coached for single seasons at Eureka College and Hillsdale College before returning to Lawrence in 2003. The Vikings won three straight Midwest Conference and MWC Tournament championships from 2004-06 with DePagter as an assistant coach. Lawrence also was ranked No. 1 nationally during the 2005-06 season while compiling the nation’s best record at 25-1.
As a player, DePagter helped the Vikings to a 42-19 record. With DePagter as an assistant coach, Lawrence compiled a 97-33 mark. DePagter also coached the Lawrence men’s golf team from the fall of 2004 until 2011, and the Vikings won the MWC championship in 2005.
“We thank him for his many years of service to Lawrence,” Abaray said. “It goes without saying that his history as an alumnus and a former coach will always be a part of who we are. Always. We are better for having him choose us. We additionally let him know that this is not goodbye so, as we already had chatted about, we’ll be in touch and for him to not be a stranger.”
Lawrence has a 7-5 mark this season and returns to action this weekend with conference games at Cornell College and Illinois College.