I have been coaching for 37 years. I want to see what it feels like to be normal — because coaching is not normal. —Keith West
SALT LAKE CITY — Keith West said he just wants to know how it feels to be like other people.
“I have been coaching for 37 years,” he said with a little laugh. “I want to see what it feels like to be normal — because coaching is not normal.” As Highland High’s head basketball coach, there isn’t a day he doesn’t think about his players and his program.
“Even when you go out to dinner with your wife, it’s always on your mind,” West said after announcing his resignation as head coach at a team meeting on Wednesday. “It never leaves you. My wife may not even like me anymore. She’s never known me any other way.”
It was skiing that lured West from California to Utah four decades ago. A former professional baseball player with the Cincinnati Reds organization (four years), he chose coaching because it fit his personality.
“Even as a high school athlete, I’ve always felt like I was a coach on the floor,” he said. “I was really self-motivated and I definitely pushed myself and everyone else.”
He looked into other career options during college, but he kept gravitating to coaching. He started working as an assistant at South High.
“I coached there until the school closed,” West said. Then he spent a year as an assistant for the men’s team at Salt Lake Community College. After that, he worked as an assistant at Highland, taking over the head coaching duties in 2000.
“My first year as head coach we won three games,” he said. “We won four games the second year and the third year we were state champions. That was a big deal for me personally. I think people really doubted what we were doing.”
West was a part of five state titles — three of which he enjoyed as a head coach. After 14 years at the helm of the program, he said he needs some time for himself. He will still teach part time, as well as handle some athletic director duties for the school.
He said he will miss the boys he’s worked with and the coaches with whom he’s become friends the most as he steps away from the sideline. He announced his resignation at a team meeting Wednesday, and while there was some discussion about changing his mind, most were grateful and understanding about his decision. Like his friend Riverton head coach Steve Galley, who announced his resignation two weeks ago, West said he feels the need for more balance in his life.
“When I talked to him, it was like talking to myself,” West said. He said he’s not ruling out helping younger players in a practice setting, but he’s also looking forward to spending time developing other interests.
He said hopes his players learned much more than how to win a basketball game from their time under his tutelage.
“Every time you step out there, you give it everything you’ve got,” he said of what he’s told his players over the years. “I’ve never missed a day of practice. I never faked it. I did my job, and I gave it what I had. That’s the way I want you to approach life. Don’t phone it in or go on autopilot. I will feel good if that’s my legacy, that I brought it every day.”
And it’s what he told his boys in their last meeting — whatever the task, regardless of the stage, always give your best effort.
“Whatever you end up doing, I hope that’s what you take with you.”