The Obit For Ken Buckles

Longtime Davenport coach Buckles dies, Sunday, August 30, 2009

His playing career was 50 years behind him, but Ken Buckles still had a way of connecting with high school basketball players.

Without pay or publicity, Buckles tirelessly worked as an assistant coach for nearly 40 years, earning the confidence and respect of players and coaches of all ages.

It was a career that could have gone on seemingly forever had health issues not interfered.

On Saturday, Buckles died at his Bettendorf home after a nine-year fight with colon cancer and Parkinson's disease. He was 77.

Most recently, Buckles served as a volunteer assistant to coach Craig Wurdinger on the Davenport Central boys basketball team.

"He talked to the kids before the game, and he talked afterward," Wurdinger said. "He was a great motivational speaker. They listened to him because of all the experience he had."

That knowledge was cultivated by an all-state career at Davenport High School in basketball and baseball.

A guard who went on to become a starter at Iowa, Buckles first led Davenport High to a state basketball title in 1950. He also won state baseball championships in '49 and '50 and played in the Cincinnati Reds' minor-league system in the mid-'50s.

Buckles got back into basketball in 1971, joining Dave Wessel's staff at Davenport West on a volunteer basis.

"I remember him chasing officials off the floor," Wessel said. "But he taught me there was a time to have fun.

"He loved being around young people. I think it kept him young."

From 1979-84, Buckles coached the women's basketball team at St. Ambrose. He left after a 29-3 season that included the program's first trip to the NAIA National Championship tournament.

Upon returning to West, again as an unpaid assistant, Buckles eventually earned another state title, this time on the staff of the Falcons' unbeaten 1994 season.

Twins Marcus and Marlin Clark, star guards on that team, returned to the Quad-Cities to visit Buckles last week.

In 1999, Buckles retired from his West duties, only to be coaxed back to coaching by Davenport Central assistant Randy McDonald in 2007.

"He was real good," Central senior Keyvan Rudd said. "He knew a lot of history, and he knew what he was talking about.

"We really had to pay attention. Those are inspiring words coming from someone who knows so much."

Buckles also earned induction into the Iowa High School Athletic Association Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978.