End of an era: Hall of Fame girls basketball coach Evan Massey retiring after historic 46-year run at Galesburg

Galesburg girls basketball coach Evan Massey
Galesburg High School girls basketball coach Evan Massey directs the Streaks during a game against Quincy on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, at John Thiel Gymnasium. (PHOTO BY STEVE DAVIS)

Evan Massey’s legendary run as girls basketball coach at Galesburg High School has come to an end.

The third-winningest coach in Illinois girls basketball history submitted his letter of retirement—effectively immediately—to District 205 administration Monday morning. He notified his players at a team meeting Monday afternoon.

His departure will leave the girls basketball program at GHS looking for its first new coach since 1978 when Massey took over a program still in its infancy.

During his storied 46-year run, Massey guided the Silver Streaks to a record of 1,018-397— a winning percentage of 71.9%. In December, Massey joined an exclusive four-digit win club that has been achieved by just three other girls coaches in Illinois, and only four for boys and girls basketball combined. The only other Illinois girls basketball coaches to secure 1,000 career victories are both retired — Dorothy Gaters of Chicago Marshall with 1,153 wins and David Power primarily of Fenwick with 1,020 wins.

Massey’s teams advanced to eight Elite 8 state tournament appearances—highlighted by a second (1999), a third (1996)  and two fourth-place trophies (2000 and 2001). He also guided the Streaks to 13 Western Big 6 Conference championships, more than any other league school.

Family, opportunity to give assistant a shot led to his decision

Evan Massey celebrates career win No. 1,000
Galesburg High School girls basketball coach Evan Massey was presented with a commemorative basketball winning his 1,000th career game Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at United Township High School in East Moline. The Streaks defeated the Panthers 55-46. (JAY REDFERN/WGIL)

A former longtime Galesburg social studies teacher, Massey said his decision to retire after 50 years in coaching came down to relationships with three people — his wife Amy, his son Allen and Streaks assistant coach Lexi (Daniels) Demott. Allen Massey is the director of scouting and analytics for University of Tulsa men’s basketball.

“I am retiring because my wife has sacrificed enough,” Massey said. “People don’t understand the sacrifice of a coach’s wife. My wife doesn’t really like basketball but she loves the Streaks players. Amy retired this January, and I want to spend time with her.

“I am retiring because I missed too much of my son’s life as he was growing up. I know he doesn’t need me now, but I just want to be able to be part of his life as much as I can.

“And finally, there is a young woman (Demott) who has been part of my life the last 12 years as a player and as a coach. She is a tremendous role model to the players, and she has grown into being a fabulous coach. I want her to have the opportunity to run the program that I love.”

He added, “It is not easy retiring from something you have done for 50 years, but when I think about these three people, I am excited about what the future holds for me and for Streaks basketball.”

Massey’s final team went 26-7—the 30th time in 46 seasons he coached the Streaks to at least 20 wins. Under Massey, Galesburg won 25-plus games 20 times, and 30-plus games seven times.

Massey said he made the decision to retire last spring. At that time, he shared his decision only with family, a pair of close friends and Demott. He notified District 205 Superintendent of Schools John Asplund and GHS Athletic Director Eric Matthews of his intentions to retire in September.

“We were unanimous that it was best to wait and announce it after the season,” Massey said. “I knew this year with the 1,000th win, that I would be getting too much attention already.

“The reason for waiting was that I wanted the year to be about the team in general and the seniors in particular as much as possible.”

AD on a replacement: ‘We really don’t want to drag this thing out’

GHS AD Eric Matthews and girls coach Evan Massey.
The Galesburg Silver Streaks defeated the Rock Island  Rocks 48-39 in Western Big 6 Conference girls basketball action Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023, at John Thiel Gymnasium. Before the game, District 205 honored Streaks head coach Evan Massey for recently claiming career win No. 1,000. At left is District 205 Athletic Director Eric Matthews. (STEVE DAVIS)

Matthews said the district is required to post the job and Demott will run the program until a new coach is named. He said his goal is to have a new varsity girls basketball coach for the school board to vote on by the March 11 school board meeting.

“We knew this was something that potentially could happen, and I’ve been in talks with Dr. Asplund about how we proceed,” Matthews said. “I know the March meeting would be a really quick turnaround. But we really don’t want to drag this thing out.

“Coach Demott will take over, keep things moving, and things will be business as usual as much as possible until we can finalize our next coach.”

Massey said, “I have told the administration what would be best for the program going forward, but that is not my decision to make.”

Matthews said he appreciated Massey keeping him updated on his plans to retire.

“Evan has accomplished so many things for Galesburg High School, he earned the right to say when it was time,” Matthews said. “I think it was kind of the right time. I wasn’t shocked to say the least.”

The Streaks were ranked among the top 10 teams in Illinois 18 times under Massey, including all of this past season. Galesburg rattled off 16 straight wins to start the 2023-24 season before suffering its first loss in the semifinals of the Mattoon Holiday Tournament.

Massey’s Streaks varsity coaching career ended at 8:11 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, with a 41-29 loss to Morton in a Class 3A regional championship game in John Thiel Gymnasium.

In discussing his retirement plans with his son last spring, Massey said he hoped for three things in his final season:

  • The Streaks would have a good team in terms of wins and losses. 
  • The players would be great people who were committed.
  • There would be good players coming up through the lower levels.


“I couldn’t have asked for a better last year,” Massey said. “This year’s team was filled with highly committed players who wanted to be coached. Our three captains—Kiarra Kilgore, Antonia Kisler and Alexis Edgerson—were three of my all-time favorites to work with.

“And looking ahead, next year’s team will be very inexperienced but there are players in high school now and in the junior high’s with good potential. It will be like it has always been—they will have to commit, work and improve if they want to be successful.”

Massey: Losses became tougher to deal with

Evan Massey celebrates career win No. 1,000
Galesburg High School girls basketball coach Evan Massey and his team pose for a photo after defeated UTHS 55-46 on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in East Moline. It was career victory No. 1,000 for Massey. (JAY REDFERN/WGIL)

Galesburg has had losing seasons just seven times since Massey took over in 1978, and has posted just one losing record in the last 37 seasons.

Massey admits losses became more difficult to deal with later in his career.

“I have let the stress involved coaching bother me more than I should have,” he said. “I honestly never felt a pressure from the community, I put it on myself. The more success we had, the more pressure I felt to want to be successful.

“It is still a thrill when we won, but losing got harder and harder to deal with as I got older. I knew how hard our players worked and how committed they were–so when we lost, it really hurt.”

During his run at Galesburg, Massey coached 58 All-Western Big 6 Conference players and 30 players who earned all-state honors. Eighty-six of Massey’s former players went on to play college basketball.

Matthews said Massey was a master of innovating and adapting until the very end of his career.

“He was so ahead of his time in so many areas,” Matthews said. “Evan was really the pioneer of the summer league. Look what that has produced. Nobody was even thinking about things like that.

“He also does such a great job of adjusting to the types of players he has. Knowing the different styles to use, and what he can get out of his kids.

“Athletics have changed so much, even in the last 6 to 10 years. But he’s able to change with the times, whether it’s scouting, or technology or social media.”

Matthews added, “We’ll definitely miss his stability, but also miss him being there for the younger coaches. He’s able a staple of Galesburg basketball, Galesburg sports and Galesburg in general for the 50 years, and we’re going to miss him.”

“So it took me three minutes to think about it. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.” — Evan Massey, on being offered the Galesburg varsity girls basketball coaching position in 1978

A native of Savanna, Illinois, where his father W.F. Massey was a legendary basketball coach and Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame member in his own right, Massey grew up in a home with a full basketball court with 6-foot baskets in their basement.

“I learned to count, add, and subtract at basketball games sitting with my mom,” Massey recalled.

After Savanna, it was on to Knox College where Massey played basketball for Harley Knosher.

“And I had a fabulous experience for Coach Knosher,” Massey said. ”He had the ability to create a culture where you felt special as a player. At Knox, it was all about the culture—team work, work ethic, unselfishness, commitment.

“My excitement in taking GHS job was to see if I could create the same kind of culture. The interesting thing was that I found with high school girls once they bought into the ‘Knox culture,’ the culture produced winning.”

Massey recalls the summer day in August 1978 when he was asked by former GHS Athletic Director George Lundeen and Principal Dave Bradley to take over the Galesburg girls basketball program.

“They had an opening for the varsity basketball position, but I had not applied for it and did not know it was open,” Massey said. “We met for 20 minutes, and they told me how they thought I would be a good fit and that it would be a good for me.

“When I left, they told me to think about it but they needed an answer in 48 hours. Of course there were no cell phones, and I lived three minutes from GHS. I drove home, called Mr. Lundeen, and said I would take it. So it took me three minutes to think about it.

“It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.”

‘Games were not my favorite part of coaching’

Evan Massey celebrates career win No. 1,000
Galesburg High School girls basketball coach Evan Massey works the huddle during a game Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at United Township High School in East Moline. The Streaks defeated the Panthers 55-46. (JAY REDFERN/WGIL)

Massey said he’s at peace with his decision to retire after a half a century in coaching, but that does’t mean he won’t miss the game—just not necessarily the games themself.

“There are so many things that I still love about coaching,” he said. “Nothing beats being part of a team, developing relationships with players. I will miss going into a locker-room after a game and sharing a win or sharing a loss with your team.

“The other team is working and collaborating with other coaches to develop a strategy and practice plan. Working daily this year with Lexi Demott, Jim Noonan and Kelsi Legge as varsity assistants was an extraordinary experience. Their knowledge and energy was so impressive. I have learned a lot from them.”

He added, “I love practices, and I loved the off-season when you were trying to figure out how build a team. Games were not my favorite part of coaching.”

Matthews said he feels fortunate to have been able to rely on Massey’s experience during his time as athletic director.

“He’s been so valuable to me as someone who’s been around and knows how things work,” Matthews said. “There’s usually a two-week window in the fall where he gets away, but otherwise, we’re talking almost everyday—especially during the season. We’re always looking ahead—sometimes two years down the road.

“There’s always something going on, and his motor just keeps on going. That said, I’ve also seen him lean more on Coach Demott, and others to give them more responsibilities.”

Massey plans to stay involved in basketball

Evan Massey and Lexi Demott
The Galesburg Silver Streaks defeated the Rock Island  Rocks 48-39 in Western Big 6 Conference girls basketball action Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023, at John Thiel Gymnasium. Before the game, District 205 honored Streaks head coach Evan Massey for recently claiming career win No. 1,000. At right is Streaks assistant Lexi Demott. (STEVE DAVIS)

Massey said he plans to stay involved in basketball “in different ways.”

“I have a couple projects that I have started,” he said. “Last fall I organized a coach’s exchange among about 25-30 boys and girls coaches. We share basketball thoughts, plays, and practice ideas. I will invest more time in that.

“And I have a basketball blog that I will be more active writing. And I will probably be a season ticket holder for Tulsa men’s basketball.”

Will Massey be a spectator at Streaks girls basketball games next season?

“I don’t plan to be looking over anyone’s shoulder, but I will help when asked,” he said. “After 46 years coaching at GHS, I plan to remain interested and a fan.

“I hope in three years I can actually tell the Herchenroders (triplets) apart without looking at their jerseys!”