WILMINGTON – Dick Rago has retired as the boys’ basketball coach at St. Elizabeth High School after finishing his 30th year on the bench, the school officially announced Wednesday. The players were informed last week, and word of Rago’s departure had been circulating in the Delaware high school sports community since then.
Rago succeeded Chuck Haney as varsity coach in 1986 after two years leading the junior varsity. He leaves with a record of 358-319.
“Most of those wins took place after the high school teams moved into the new St. E Center athletic facility in 2001. But a winning tradition did start at the Box,” said Rago, referring to the tiny gymnasium in the school building.
Rago’s teams have qualified for the state tournament nine times in the past 10 years, advancing to the final four twice and the quarterfinals another three times. Under his watch, the Vikings participated in the old and the new Slam Dunk to the Beach tournaments; this past season, they defeated St. Raymond of the Bronx, N.Y., becoming the first Delaware team to beat an out-of-state team.
Other tournaments in which St. Elizabeth has participated include the Kennett Tournament and the Friends’ Quaker Classic.
According to the school, one of the most memorable nights of Rago’s coaching career came on Feb. 10, 2012, at the St. E Center. That evening, both Andre Patton and Tim Massado scored their 1000th career points, and Rago won his 300th game.
Rago said he cherishes the relationships he has developed with his players more than anything.
“It has been a wonderful, wonderful experience being part of these boys’ lives,” he said. “They say they learned a lot from me, but I have learned a lot from them.”
Twenty-four of his players moved on to play in college, and 16 have become coaches at the Catholic Youth Ministry or high school level.
St. Elizabeth head of school Shirley Bounds said Rago leaves behind a legacy of passion on the court and “accomplished young men” who were able to compete with any other team. But that wasn’t the most important aspect of his tenure, she said.
“Coach Rago cared for his players not just on the basketball court but also in their development to become young men of character and accomplishment. The VK Nation of students, faculty and alumni are grateful for his years as a coach of the maroon and gold.”
Rago will continue with his law practice in Wilmington and plans to spend more time with his wife, Evelyn, and their three sons and two grandchildren. Rago, a graduate of Salesianum School, earned his undergraduate and law degrees at Villanova University, where he played freshman basketball.
St. Elizabeth athletic director Joe Papili praised Rago for his work and for leaving a foundation for his successor. The search for a new coach has already begun, he said.