John Ritzdorf

New Central Community College men's coach John Ritzdorf poses for a photo at the Raider Fieldhouse on Monday. For Ritzdorf, the Raiders are his first head coaching position at the collegiate level. 

John Ritzdorf has come a long way since his first coaching position as the fourth grade, B-team head coach at Omaha Sports Academy.

Just last week he was announced as the next men's basketball coach at Central Community College. For Ritzdorf, it's his first collegiate head coaching position and one that he's been after in the last few years.

It was time, he said, to be the man in charge.

"I had been wanting to be a head coach for a couple of years now," Ritzdorf said during an interview on Monday. "I think when you get to a certain age your career can either go, 'I want to be an assistant for a while,' and move up that way or you can want to run your own program. I wanted to run my own program."

Ritzdorf, a native of York, applied for the job back in April. Just over a month later, he was given the opportunity and officially took over following Jerry Drymon. 

Though he's always been a player, and dad was a player at Kearney State, now Nebraska-Kearney, he learned early on his future in the game didn't necessarily follow the same path.

"I played at an early age," Ritzdorf said. "My dad was a pretty good player at Kearney State. He never pushed me into it, but I grew up going to games and camps and it was a really fun thing for me. I played since I was six or seven.

"I played in high school, at York High School. I knew I wasn't good enough to play in college, so I wanted to get to coaching right away, which is why I went to UNO."

Ritzdorf said that going to school in Omaha opened up more doors for him to start his career.

While attending UNO, Ritzdorf took his first coaching job at Omaha Sports Academy. leading a club team of 10 and 11 year olds.

"The team wasn't very good, I wasn't a very good coach, but I had to get my feet wet somehow," he said. "That was my first job."

From there, Ritzdorf went on to coach at Ralston High School as an assistant under Bill Hurd. Despite that steep early learning curve, he also returned to Omaha Sports Academy and became an AUU coach for high school-aged players. 

"I knew I enjoyed it," Ritzdorf said. "I knew I would have to get a lot better at it. There was never a question or whether I thought it was the thing I wanted to do or not. I wanted to coach from the second I started. There was never a moment where I questioned if that was what I wanted to do for my career path or not.

"It was a really natural fit. I was fortunate to be around some good coaches early in my career. I just took off after that." 

After graduating from UNO, Ritzdorf went on to take a position as a graduate assistant at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota (Division II).

From there he became the Director of Basketball Operations at Omaha during the Mavericks' Division I transition before taking an assistant job at the UNK, where he has coached on the staff of current head Loper, Kevin Lofton.  

"I loved (coaching at Kearney)," Ritzdorf said. "I learned a lot. It was good being close to home. It's a really good school, but at the end of the day, I wanted to run my own program. So that's why I pursued (the Central) job so hard."

After climbing the ladder for many years, Ritzdorf said he's looking forward to his time in Columbus. And while leading a program was the goal, it also had to be the right fit.

"I'm excited to be here," he said. "I didn't just take this job because I wanted to be a head coach, I took this job because I wanted to be the head coach at CCC. This opportunity was really intriguing to me.

"I just want people to know that I can't wait to get started officially, and I can't wait for our guys to get here in the fall. We're going to be really active in the community. Whether it's community service or just outreach with local schools and events like that. I want to mesh our program and the community and create a welcoming atmosphere."

Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com

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