Nancy Stiff will step away as Arcola basketball coach after 43 years in charge.

ARCOLA -- The only girls' basketball coach in Arcola history, Nancy Stiff, turned in her resignation Monday to athletics director Zach Zehr.

"I am officially retired," Stiff said.

Stiff finishes with a record of 722-331 (.686) including 40 seasons of .500 or better, 10 regular season Little Okaw Valley Conference titles, 10 regional championships and two sectional titles along with four Sweet 16 appearances.

"Nancy Stiff is the Arcola girls' basketball program," Zehr said. "She is the only person ever in charge of it. To be in the same position for 43 years and not just be the head coach, but a top notch head coach, to have the girls still respect and respond to her the same this year as they did 43 years ago says a lot about how she coached."

Stiff, No. 6 in IHSA girls basketball career wins, met with the 2015-16 team prior to school Monday telling the squad of her retirement.

"If I didn't know better, I thought they suspected it," said Stiff, who also said Zehr was at the meeting. "Some kids shed some tears of disappointment, but I think they know the program will carry on. They are young kids and they have great resiliency and they will bounce back and be just fine. They understood where I was coming from."

Zehr said Stiff, who was the athletics director when he was hired, was the first person he had consistent contact with. 

"She is such a wealth of knowledge as far a young coach and she was a great mentor to me," said Zehr. "She is the same person whether she is coaching or being the athletics director or whatever it may be."

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Stiff said next year's team will return eight players who will be seniors.

"I am not leaving the cupboard bare and that was a big factor in my decision," said Stiff. "We have a very talented junior class that will be seniors and they all got so much varsity playing experience. We have got kids that really improved this year."

As she does after every season, Stiff thinks about what she wants to do.

"After this season I was just tired and exhausted," Stiff said. "It is probably old age; I don't know. I had a ball. It was a rewarding experience. If I had to do it all over again I would do the same thing. I had tremendous players with a great work ethic and huge hearts that bled purple and that is why we have been so successful. I have been involved in a great community that got behind us form the get go and give it everything they had. It has been a wonderful career for me in about every aspect of the game."

Stiff, a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame and Illinois Girls Coaches Association Hall of Fame, did her student teaching at Arcola in 1972-73 and approached former Arcola principal Millard Goben about starting a girls' basketball program. In 1973-74, the Riders went 7-0. The first IHSA season was 1976-77 and Arcola went 15-3 and won a regional championship.  

As for the next coach Zehr said the school board is expected to accept the resignation in April and after that the job is be posted internally and then externally.

"I hope we don't see a revolving door," said Stiff of coaches. "Whenever that happens it hurts the program and it greatly deteriorates. I hope someone steps in with a passion for the game and will continue the tradition and the success and put their stamp on the program. Someone who loves the game and really wants to make a difference for the girls, the program and the community. I am sure coach Zehr will get someone well qualified to carry on and to be a good influence on the players."

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