Obituaries

Obituary: Don ‘Coach’ Laketa, Aug. 5, 1932 – April 11, 2024

Don “Coach” Laketa, 91, of Homewood, died April 11. Loving father of Jan (Dave Shepherd) Laketa, Donna (Pete) Catan (deceased), Kay (Bill) Oppe, Parker (Brigitte) Laketa, and Sue (Mark) Jostes. Loving grandfather to Morgan Laketa, Quinn Shepherd, Sam (Alexia) Catan, Hope (Jonathan) Portney, Lauren Oppe, Kevin (Destiny) Oppe, Jacob Oppe, Parker Laketa II, Preston Laketa, Rhett Laketa, Luc Laketa, McKenna Hill, Rylyn Jostes, Danny Jostes. Loving great grandfather to Boaz Portney. 

One Hall of Fame was not enough for Don Laketa. He was enshrined in two. 

Don, the longtime Homewood-Flossmoor High School basketball coach who won nearly 450 games in all levels in Illinois. Under his leadership, Homewood-Flossmoor won two Centralia Holiday Tournament titles, 12 Thanksgiving tournaments, six conference titles, nine Illinois High School Association (IHSA) regional crowns, and three IHSA sectional titles. His 1985 team finished third in the Class AA state tournament. During a storied career that spanned three decades from 1964 to 1994, Coach Laketa was twice named the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) Coach of the Year, and in 1988 coached the Class AA North team in the IBCA All-Star Game. He was inducted into the IBCA Hall of Fame in 1990. 

Don was not only an accomplished coach but also a player. A 6’6” center, he averaged 23.6 points per game in basketball at Lemont High School, where he also starred on the baseball diamond and football field. He was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004. Following his graduation in 1950, Don played basketball at Joliet Junior College, being named an All-American. He went on to play basketball at the University of Wichita (now Wichita State University).  Turning down a tryout with the then-Milwaukee Hawks of the fledgling NBA, Don enlisted in the Marine Corps, graduating from officers training school in Quantico, Virginia, and attaining the rank of second lieutenant. 

Coach Laketa began his coaching career in 1960 at Labette Community High School in Altamont, Kansas. After compiling a 47-29 record in four seasons, he returned to the Chicago area in 1964 as the sophomore and junior varsity basketball coach at Homewood-Flossmoor. In 1972-73, Laketa was promoted to lead the boys’ varsity basketball team, where in 17 seasons his teams amassed a 317-137 record. His overall mark for all levels in Illinois was 448-257. 

Coach Laketa combined two of his passions – basketball and golf by leading Homewood-Flossmoor varsity golf team to the state title in 1970, the first state title of any kind at Homewood-Flossmoor.

Visitation will be Friday, April 19,  from 2-8 p.m. with a 7:30 p.m. Pomen Service at Tews-Ryan Funeral Home, 18230 Dixie Highway in Homewood.  Funeral will be Saturday with the body lying in state at 10:30 a.m. followed by an 11 a.m. service at St. George Serbian Orthodox Church, 300 Stryker Ave. in Joliet. Interment will be at Woodlawn Cemetery in Joliet.

For additional information, contact tews-ryanfh.com or call 708-798-5300.

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