Wayne Cafferty, father of Colo-NESCO's 5-on-5 girls basketball program, retires after 36 years of coaching

Joe Randleman
Ames Tribune

Wayne Cafferty has been there since the beginning of 5-on-5 girls basketball at Colo-NESCO.

A 1981 graduate of Prairie of Gowrie and 1986 graduate of Wayne State, Cafferty took over the Colo-NESCO girls program 29 years ago when it was transitioning from 6-on-6 to 5-on-5 in girls basketball. After a seven-year stint at Harris Lake Park to start his coaching career, Cafferty was immediately able to turn the Colo-NESCO basketball program into a powerhouse among the smaller schools in Central Iowa.

Now, after leading his teams to 13 conference championships and six state tournament appearances, Cafferty has decided it's time for someone else to take over for the Royals. He is retiring after 36 years of coaching.

"I was just burned out of the time commitment to do all the extra things that you have to do to be successful," Cafferty told The Ames Tribune. "Open gyms, summer basketball, team camps, morning shooting, long bus trips."

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Colo-NESCO's Wayne Cafferty is stepping down after a 36-year career coaching girls basketball. Cafferty, who coached at Colo-NESCO for 26 years, won 549 games and led his team to 13 conference championships and six trips to the state tournament.

Cafferty leaves behind a lasting legacy in girls basketball.

He posted a 549-274 record during his coaching career. At Colo-NESCO, he won five Heart of Iowa Conference championships and eight Iowa Star Conference South Division titles in a row from 2013-2020.

He coached six teams to the state tournament, one at Harris Lake Park and five at Colo-NESCO. His 2002 Colo-NESCO team placed second in Class 2A.

Cafferty won numerous coach of the year awards from the Iowa Girls Coaches Association and Iowa Basketball Coaches Association. In 2014, he was inducted into the IGCA Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.

"Wayne has exemplified everything that a hall of fame coach is," Colo-NESCO Athletic Director Travis Owens said. "He has shown great leadership and commitment to the program and the wins and state tournament appearances show this, as well as the respect and gratitude that is shown by his former players."

Cafferty set a standard at Colo-NESCO few coaches across the state can match.

"Coach Cafferty is a first-class type of guy and coach who always did things the right way," Colo-NESCO head boys basketball coach Brandon Kelley said. "He spent countless hours helping girls learn the game of basketball and always provided students with an opportunity to get better each day. He was a great mentor, friend and coach who is an even better person and he will be missed by many. His passion and dedication were second to none."

Cafferty formed many lasting relationships and had plenty of fun along the way.

"One of my favorite Wayne stories happened about 15-20 years ago," West Marshall head coach Fred Zeller said. "I (accidentally) got an email from his assistant coach. It was an invitation for everybody to show up for the upcoming Friday night game with West Marshall, so fans and former players could help celebrate Wayne’s 200th win.  When I got to the game, I told Wayne we were going to forfeit since his assistant was so sure C-N was going to win. He was a little embarrassed. 

"And then they went out and beat us by 20 points. Turns out the assistant had Wayne’s record wrong. It was only win 199."

Zeller has been coaching for 48 years, including 32 at West Marshall. He and Cafferty had fierce battles from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s when they were both in the same conference.

Wayne Cafferty led the Colo-NESCO girls basketball program to the state tournament five times, including a runner-up finish in Class 2A during the 2002 season.

Even after their teams went to separate conferences, they continued their rivalry.

"Being 8 miles apart, we always drew big crowds and it was sort of a friendly-unfriendly rivalry," Zeller said. "Wayne and I were always friendly. The fans and players, not so much."

Zeller enjoyed spending time with Cafferty, even if that meant occasionally putting his life in danger.

"Back in the late 90s, we used to take our teams to a summer camp at Creighton," Zeller said. "One night, Wayne gave me a ride to a coaches pizza party.  On the way home, he ended up going the wrong way on a busy downtown Omaha street. After a couple of near-collisions, we luckily made it back to the dorm OK. When Colo-NESCO came to West Marshall that season, there was a one-way arrow painted on their team-bench."

Zeller will miss coaching against his good friend.

"His teams were always fundamentally sound, played tough defense and competed well, no matter the talent level," Zeller said. "I’ve coached girls basketball for 48 years, against a lot of good coaches, but none that I respect any more than Wayne Cafferty. He’s been good for Colo-NESCO and good for high school girls basketball in the state of Iowa."

Although he's retiring, Cafferty isn't done with the game of basketball.

He's worked on the bench crew as a back-up for Iowa State men's and women's basketball. Cafferty has been responsible for shot clock, scoreboard, timer, sub tracker and the scorebook and hopes to do more with those roles now that he is retired from coaching.

Cafferty will cherish his time as a coach and he will always be a part of Colo-NESCO girls basketball.

"I've enjoyed working with players and seeing them improve over their high school career, seeing players go on to play at college and be successful — Iowa State, Bellevue, Simpson, Wartburg, Buena Vista, Loras, Coe, Waldorf, DMACC, Iowa Lakes, MCC — taking teams to team camps, especially Creighton and Spirit Lake," Cafferty said. "Having teams exceed expectations, being able to compete for numerous conference championships and at state tournaments. Meeting up with alumni always makes my day."