Rick Bloomquist is as passionate about coaching basketball, and coaching at Topeka West, as he ever has been in a successful high school career that has spanned more than four decades and produced 576 victories.

RickBloomquistBB 2Veteran Topeka West basketball coach Rick Bloomquist is stepping away from coaching to watch his sons play high school basketball. [File photo/TSN]

But Bloomquist knows that it's time for him, at least for the foreseeable future, to apply that passion towards supporting his sons' fledgling careers in the sport he so dearly loves.

Cohen Bloomquist recently completed his freshman season at Emporia High while his younger brother, Kaelon, will be a freshman for the Spartans next season and Rick Bloomquist wants to be on hand for every minute.

To that end, the 69-year-old Bloomquist confirmed to that he is stepping away from coaching at Topeka West, although he plans to continue teaching at the school. Bloomquist informed his West players of his decision on Thursday morning.

"One hundred percent of this whole deal is being a dad, I need to be a dad,'' Bloomquist told TSN. "I took this job 12 years ago, so you're talking about Cohen being 4 and Kaelon being 3 and they've sacrificed that (basketball) season, not of me being a father but being a dad and being around as much. They had no problem with it, nobody had a problem with it, but now it's their turn. 

"I didn't know how long I was going to be at Topeka West. I didn't have any idea, but every year it got better and every year I got happier and every year everything meshed together. Their mother, Kendra, supported it very well and the boys actually have been proud that their dad was the coach at Topeka West and they wore that badge every day it seemed like, so this whole decision is 100 percent based on being a dad and watching them through their high school years. I owe that to them, I owe that to me, to both of us, because I've missed out on that part of their sports activities.

"I haven't missed out on their football or their track or their baseball or anything else they wanted to do, but basketball's a long season and now that they're both getting up there and getting a chance to play at the high school level I don't want to miss out on that.''

Before taking over a moribund Topeka West program in the 2012-2013 season Bloomquist previously coached for 21 years at Emporia, where he led the Spartans to six state tournament appearances and a runner-up state finish in 1995, and coached nine seasons at Kingman.

But it was at Topeka West where Bloomquist rejuvenated his career after being out of the game for two seasons.

Bloomquist notched his 500th career win in West's win over Olathe Northwest in January, 2020, and he has led the Chargers to five straight winning seasons, including a berth in the Class 5A state championship game in 2021.

RickBloomquistBB 3Rick Bloomquist has posted 576 victories as a high school coach, taking Emporia and Topeka West to the state finals. [File photo/TSN]

And even though he knows in his heart that he's making the right decision, Bloomquist said that it is still really hard to step away from coaching. 

"It pulls on me bad, it pulls on me hard,'' Bloomquist said. "I really love coaching in (USD) 501. My personality fits 501's philosophy of coaching. There's a good fit here and I realize that. There's some places my personality wouldn't fit, but 90 percent of my time here the parents, the administrators have been just great.

"There's just so many happy memories and positive things whether it be coaching or teaching, the whole gamut. The Topeka West atmosphere, I love it here.''

Bloomquist said his bond with the Topeka West community was strengthened by the overwhelming support he received after being diagnosed with cancer late in the 2020-2021 regular season.

Bloomquist continued to coach the Chargers through the postseason, which ended with the West run to the title game, a 55-43 loss to Maize. 

"I don't mean this is in a bad way but that was kind of a message to me,'' Bloomquist said. "If we would have won the state championship that year, it would have been a made for TV story, and it would have probably been pretty good. But the fact that we didn't win it might have been a sign that, 'You need to stay a little longer because I think that's what you want.'

"That's just the cheesy part of me talking but that's how much that meant to me, the support of the kids and everyone else. It's been a great relationship.'' 

Bloomquist, was declared cancer free in the summer of 2021 and he made it clear that he plans to coach again.

"I'm not retiring, but I'm taking a four-year break before I get back into coaching, whether it be in Topeka or somewhere else,'' he said. "If my health dicates, I'll coach again. I'll coach again when I'm 74. My body may not work as well but my tongue and my mind will still be the same.

"I have an unbelievable medical team that takes care of me right now. The medical teams in Topeka, Kansas in my opinion is why I'm alive today. I just want people to know that this is 100 percent being a dad and watching my sons for four years. I do want to come back, and not necessarily take anybody's place, but I want to come back and coach some place.''

Bloomquist took over a West program in 2012-13 that had won only two games the previous two years, including an 0-21 record in 2011-12. In Bloomquist's first season at West, the Chargers snapped a 36-game losing streak, and West had a breakout season in 2017-18 when West posted a 15-7 record.

Topeka West is coming off a 14-8 season and will return a strong nucleus from that team

Bloomquist said he feels good about the fact that the next Topeka West coach will walk into a healthy situation.

"I have a wonderful coaching staff,'' Bloomquist said of assistants Marco Hunter, Dwayne Anthony and former Charger Elijah Griffin. "They've been great to me.

"Selfishly I'm proud of the program. I'm very proud of it. I'm proud of how I'm leaving it and I'm proud of what we've done from the beginning.''

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