Lori Blade is a Hall of Famer for the third time in seven years and she’s elated about it.
Those statewide honors have a special significance. They are something to cherish.
Blade, the longtime girls’ basketball and softball coach at Edwardsville High, was elected to the Illinois Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame as a player and coach in 2009.
She also was selected to the SIUE Hall of Fame the same year. Blade excelled as a softball and basketball player for the Cougars. She’s No. 12 on the school’s career women’s basketball scoring list.
Now, the 50-year-old Maryville resident has joined another club. She’s a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. Blade was enshrined April 30 at Illinois State University in Normal during the 44th annual IBCA ceremonies. A strong Southwestern Illinois contingent joined her in the latest group of Famers.
It was a fitting tribute for Blade, who has guided Edwardsville and Carrollton programs to statewide prominence.
“They are all special,” Blade said of her multiple Hall of Fame honors. “But it’s not something I set out to do.”
Yet her record speaks for itself, and Blade’s induction was a slam dunk.
“When it comes from your peers, it’s very special,” she said of the IBCA award.
She has made it a memorable coaching career in basketball and softball. In fact, Blade is the only coach in IHSA history to log more than 600 victories in both girls’ basketball and softball.
“That’s crazy,” Blade said. “What it says is that I have been blessed.”
She has posted a 624-83 record in 23 seasons as a varsity basketball coach and registered more than 640 wins — and counting — in softball.
Softball is a spring sport, so Blade’s winning ways will continue. Edwardsville sported an 18-3 record entering this week and the Tigers sat atop the Southwestern Conference standings. They had won 11 in succession before bowing to Calhoun, 3-0, on April 25.
Nonetheless, it appears that Edwardsville is primed for more success and Blade wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s as much of a competitor now as she was playing two sports at Casey High School in the early 1980s.
“I still love to compete,” said Blade, a physical education, health and driver’s education teacher. “That’s something that’s in me because the intensity is still there. But I’m not as fiery as I was when I first started coaching. That’s the biggest change in myself.”
Dad Don, 80, and mom, Karen, 79, instilled that competitive approach in her and she has maintained a spirited approach to playing and coaching.
“My parents coached me when I was starting out playing sports,” Blade said. Other family members competed with and against her, developing her desire to succeed.
Former Casey coach Denny Throneburg, a talented basketball player at SIUE, also helped to shape her style.
“Other than my parents, Denny Throneburg was the biggest influence on me,” Blade said. “I played basketball and softball for him and learned passion and how to do things.”
Edwardsville assistant coach Donna Farley, who has worked with Blade for more than 20 years, also has had a big impact on her coaching career. Farley has been coaching for 33 seasons.
“She has been an unbelievably big part of the success,” Blade said. “She could have been a head coach and should have been a head coach. It has been awesome to work with her.”
Farley and Blade have complemented each other starting with their years in Carrollton and continuing at Edwardsville.
Blade noted, “We see the game differently, but we feed off each other in tactics of the game.”
When Blade coached Carrollton, the Hawks emerged as a small-school powerhouse. They captured Class A state championships in 2001 and 2002 and finished second in 1999. Six Carrollton squads advanced to state over an eight-year period.
Then Edwardsville came calling in 2002 and Blade took the plunge in basketball. By 2004, she was also the Tigers’ head softball coach. The transition from small-school Carrollton to big-school Edwardsville came at the right time in her life.
“It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever done,” she said. “What made it difficult was leaving Carrollton, where there were great people.”
Nevertheless, the lure of Edwardsville, the SWC and going against the best teams in Southwestern Illinois stirred Blade. Don’t forget that competitive spirit she forged at a young age.
“I took it as a challenge because some people said I couldn’t win here,” she said of coming to Tiger Town.
Those Edwardsville teams have won plenty. The basketball Tigers own 13 regional titles, 11 sectional championships and own 4 state appearances since 2002-03. And the 2011-12 team finished second in state.
During the last five years, Edwardsville has compiled a 152-8 record. Blade’s EHS record is 393-56.
“She has an amazing record,” Edwardsville director of athletics Brad Bevis said. “Lori has great attention to detail and the kids and the parents buy into the programs.”