Former Oregon High School coach Roger Pribbenow hadn’t coached a boys basketball game in more than 25 years when he received a surprising call from WBCA president Jerry Petitgoue two years ago.
Pribbenow, a coach at OHS from 1966-1991, was told he had been nominated to the WBCA Hall of Fame. And earlier this year, that nomination went a step further. He and the rest of the class will be inducted Sept. 28 at a banquet at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells.
Pribbenow said three words came to mind when he got the call telling him he had been inducted earlier this year – surprised, pleased and proud.
“I had been out of basketball for a long time,” he said. “Jerry and I know each other. We’ve worked on committees together, but we don’t exchange Christmas cards, so I knew the call was for real.”
The Richland Center High School graduate and four-sport athlete taught math at three different high schools and coached for more than a half-century in boys basketball and tennis.
In his 18 seasons as the head basketball coach at Oregon, Pribbenow compiled a 213-152 record (304-238 overall as a JV and varsity coach in 28 years). His teams won three Badger Conference championships and had five second-place finishes in the Badger and Central Suburban Conferences.
Pribbenow was an assistant All-Star game coach in 1989, the all-star head coach in 1991 and the Badger Conference commissioner from 1994-2001.
Dan Kissling, his only four-year varsity starter at Oregon, nominated Pribbenow back in 2014 and will present him with the award this fall
“You don’t see very many coaches anymore coach as long as he did,” Kissling said. “More than 36 years of teaching and coaching is unbelievable to me.
“He coached tennis, volunteered at the Wisconsin state track meet for more than 35 years as a clerk of course and stepped in for the season as interim head coach when the Oregon girls basketball coach became ill with cancer.”
Following his parents
Born in 1939, Pribbenow earned seven varsity letters playing football, basketball, baseball and golf at RCHS.
The son of teachers Harold and Evelyn Pribbenow, Roger was inspired to follow his parents into teaching and coaching.
His father coached boxing, assisted the football and basketball teams and was the head coach of the Richland Center baseball team for a couple years.
“My dad liked to do his coaching during the weekend and let the kids play on the weekend,” Pribbenow said. “He believed you did your work during the week and you tried help your team during a game, but it was their game.”
His parents would come to at least a half dozen Oregon boys basketball games a season while their son coached the team from 1973-1991.
“Afterwards he would ask, Why did you do this? And I would explain. He just wanted to know what I was thinking,” Pribbenow said.
Teaching and coaching
Pribbenow’s coaching and teaching career began an hour north of his hometown.
After graduating from UW-La Crosse with a degree in math education in 1961 and earning his master’s degree in math education from the University of Oklahoma in 1967, he spent three years (1961-64) as an assistant basketball coach in Cashton.
He then spent two years at Sussex Hamilton, where he was an assistant golf coach and head tennis coach for one year. The next 25 years were spent at Oregon High School, first as an assistant boys basketball coach, then as varsity coach in 1973. He began coaching the girls tennis team in 1980 - a position he held until 2011.
His best seasons coaching basketball at Oregon were ‘76-77 (16-4), ‘85-86 (19-2), ‘88-89 (19-4) and ‘90-91 (18-3). The ‘85-86 team was ranked No. 1 in Division 1 in early February and finished ranked sixth. The ‘90-91 team was ranked No. 1 in December and finished ranked second.
“My senior year we won the conference title and were ranked #1 in the state most of the year,” Kissling said. “Coach would let you play but would get on you if you messed up.”
After coaching at least one sport for 51 years, Pribbenow retired from coaching at Oregon in 2011.
“There were a lot of things that kept me here,” he said. “I liked the location. The kids were good. There were a lot of good people and I enjoyed being the head of the math department for many years.”