Through fifty-two years of high school teaching and coaching, Adolph “Pat” Panek’s biggest satisfaction was seeing students develop mentally, physically and spiritually to become valuable members of society.
Born in 1901 in Leigh, Nebraska, Panek received all of his education in Kearney, Nebraska, and garnered nine letters as a high school athlete—three letters each in football, basketball and track. He graduated in 1919, worked and saved for college, and entered Kearney State Teachers College in 1921. While at Kearney State, he again earned nine letters, three each in the same sports of football, basketball and track, with especially exceptional performances in the pole vault.
Panek began his teaching and coaching career in 1925 in Fullerton, Nebraska, where he spent one year and then stayed for three years in St. Paul. His St. Paul basketball teams won two state titles and played twice in the national tournament. In 1929, he moved to Norfolk, Nebraska, where he spent the next nine years. He coached thirteen years in Nebraska high schools.
His service as head football coach at Denver’s East High School began in 1938, and over a twenty-eight year period, his teams won two state championships, fifteen league titles and shared one; at one point winning forty-four straight games. He also managed an American Legion baseball team for twenty-six years and assisted with Denver’s “Old Timers” summer baseball program.
After a mandatory retirement from East High School, Panek moved to Machebeuf High School, where, in his ten years, his teams won two Parochial League football titles. Until his retirement from Machebeuf in 1977, Panek was the Dean of the Nation’s High School Coaches. He ranks second to Amos Alonzo Stagg in number of years coaching, Stagg having fifty-seven years coaching and Panek fifty-two. Panek follows Paul Brown in the number of career wins. Brown’s prep, college and pro record was 351-134-16, while Panek’s 328-117-29 made him the winningest prep football coach in history.
In addition to being named to the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1976, Panek was also elected to the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Football Hall of Fame in 1979. Panek expressed that being associated with high school athletes was the most rewarding sports event in his life.
What made Panek unique among high school coaches was the effectiveness with which his teams handled the single wing. But it was not just the single wing that made Panek unique. It was his whole philosophy of giving of himself to help others get the most from their talents that made him a special coach, teacher and man.
Panek and wife Catherine had one daughter.
Adolph “Pat” Panek’s biggest satisfaction was seeing students develop mentally, physically and spiritually.