‘He’ll always be an inspiration’: Thousands pay respects to longtime coach, teacher, referee and friend

MUSCODA, Wis. — Thousands passed through St. John’s gymnasium Saturday afternoon to pay tribute to Tracy Krueger. The longtime coach, teacher, referee and friend passed away Monday after suffering a heart attack while refereeing a high school basketball game.

“He was so emphatic with his desire and his love to bring kids along,” said Shelly Miess, who taught alongside Krueger for a number of years. “Not only on the sports arena, but also in life.”

Known to his players as “Coach K”, Krueger impacted tens of thousands of lives during his 69 years. As a teacher, coach, ref and volunteer.

“(My daughter) is a coach herself now,” Miess said. “A lot of that is because of Tracy.”

“What always impressed me about Tracy was that he had such a drive, such an enthusiasm, such a spirit about him,” said Daniel Zadrazil, a former student. “He engaged you whether you were his player, or his student. He made you want to learn and be the best you could be.”

Prior to Tuesday’s game against Penn State, the Wisconsin Badgers Men’s Basketball team saved a courtside seat in Krueger’s honor.

“If you were involved with the sport of basketball or not, you still knew Tracy Krueger,” Miess said. “He was so involved with the community.”

Other coworkers say they’ll remember Krueger for his infectious attitude and signature catchphrase: ‘It’s a great day to be a Chieftain.”

“If you walked down the halls at school and you saw this gentlemen bounding down,” Miess said. “You would have a smile on your face, and the rest of your day was beautiful. That was Tracy. He lightened up everyone with that smile.”

“Energetic. Great friend. Christian,” is how Valerie Keegan, another coworker, described Krueger. “He baked homemade cookies for all his students on his birthday. He’d bring pails of ice cream….(he was) always teaching, always coaching, always uplifting people.”

“He always inspired you to go for gold,” Zadrazil said. “No matter how many years went by, if he still ran into us, it’d been 20 years since I was in his classroom, he still cared to know exactly how we were doing and what was going on.”