Toughness wasn’t just something that Steve Self tried to instill in the basketball players he coached. He lived it, too.
Self, who served two stints as the boys basketball head coach at Henry-Senachwine High School, died on Monday, July 27, at the age of 49, after a six-year battle with cancer.
“The Henry-Senachwine family is saddened by the loss of Steve Self,” read a release from HSHS superintendent Dr. Michael Miller. “As a teacher and coach, Steve was so dedicated and invested in our students, families, and schools. Working with Steve for 17 years, I know the positive impact he had and know how much he cared about our schools and our community. We will miss and always remember Coach Self.”
Former Henry athletic director John Erwin, who retired after the last school year, spent 20 years working with Self, many of them sharing the same office. He remembers Self as an ambitious, hard-working man who was a successful coach, a strict but fair mentor to his players and students, but always with a witty sense of humor.
“Steve was a funny guy, a lot of fun to be around. I have a lot of fond memories of my years working with him,” said Erwin. “He was a very caring person. He cared about the kids, he cared about Henry-Senachwine High School and he cared about the community.
“He put up a good fight … He will be very much missed.”
St. Bede volleyball coach Karrie Damerell got to know Steve’s wife, Rita Self, through coaching against her Henry teams in the Tri-County Conference for many years. Ultimately, they became friends and got to know each others families better when their sons, Griffin Self and Braden Damerell, played junior football against each other.
“Steve was an avid sportsman, whether it was coaching his team, supporting Rita’s volleyball teams or sitting in the stands supporting our children’s teams,” she said. “He will be missed … Our thoughts and prayers go out to Rita and the Self family.”
Self, like his wife a native of Williamsfield, took over the Mallards hoops program in 2001-02 and over the next eight seasons, led them to a 92-124 record.
Joe Mintus, now the assistant principal at Mossville Elementary School, admitted he and Self were bitter rivals when the former first started coaching boys basketball at T-C rival Midland.
However, when Mintus’ assistant, Brian Yoder, left to coach at Flanagan-Cornell, he offered Self the spot and it paid off big.
In 2009-10, the first of his two seasons there working as an unpaid assistant, he helped Midland set a school record for wins, win both the Tri-County regular season and conference tournament and a regional.
Later, Mintus returned the favor and joined Self at Henry.
“I always respected Steve’s teams and how hard they played,” Mintus said. “His attention to detail made me a better coach. He taught me so much. Steve was such a great guy. This is a sad day, for sure … He made Henry a better place.”
In his second term at HSHS, from 2011-12 through 2016-17, his clubs posted a 100-69 mark over six seasons, but it was during this second tour at Henry that he fell ill.
After suffering from severe headaches, he had it checked out and was diagnosed with a brain tumor in July of 2014. During the subsequent surgery, he underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments that caused him weight loss, nausea, fatigue and the loss of his hair.
Through it all, with the help of his wife, his children 18-year-old Griffin and 16-year-old Hope and his many friends and colleagues, Self remained dedicated professionally and upbeat personally.
“Steve was a class act,” said Marquette coach Todd Hopkins, who like Self is a devoted St. Louis Cardinals fan. “He was a good guy to talk to, great guy, great family guy, a real basketball guy, too. He got everything out of those Henry kids that he possibly could and then some. He did a fantastic job … This is a tough deal for his family. You have to feel for them and the entire Henry community. It’s a big loss.”