Demi Salazar has coached in more than 2,600 volleyball matches between high school and club, and thousands of athletes along the way.
He’s coached eight regional champions and four sectional champions with one state finalist.
But there’s one team at home he’s looking forward to following the most.
“I’ve got another team waiting for me. They all call me Grandpa,” he said.
Salazar told close confidants he was going to hang up his whistle last month. This week, it has become official.
Salazar has stepped down from his second stint as the Hall volleyball coach. He has been head coach at Hall since 2016 and previously coached the Lady Devils from 2002-08.
He said it was a hard decision to make.
“When we were young, I told my wife (Annette) I was going to coach 50 years. This was going on 45,” Salazar, 61, said. “I’ve got 11 grandkids. I need to spend some time with them. It definitely was not easy. It took Annette three days talking about it back and forth. … I don’t think you can just walk away from something you’ve done that long and liked and not (miss it). I’m sure there’s people who walked away from jobs all the time. I just never considered it a job.”
Salazar went over 400 career wins this year, with more than half of the wins at Hall, finishing at 402-232-4 (.634).
A 1976 St. Bede Academy graduate, Salazar got his start coaching grade school boys basketball at St. Pats in LaSalle while he was still in high school.
“My parents were adamant we had to give to our area, so I coached and my kids did, too,” Salazar said.
He said he also got a nudge from legendary St. Bede coach John Gaughn, who told him “you’ve got to do something in your life.”
His first volleyball job was a varsity assistant and freshman coach at L-P. He also coached volleyball at Marquette, St. Bede and Ottawa.
Salazar also helped start up the IVVP Club team in 1993.
Thanks to ASEP (American Sport Education Program), Salazar was able to become a head coach, landing his first job at Putnam County in 1996.
He coached at PC for six years (1996-2001), capped by two straight sectional championships in 1998 and ’99.
He moved on to neighbor Hall in 2002, winning six regionals and two sectionals in seven seasons. His Lady Devils finished fourth at state in 2005.
Salazar won another regional at Henry in 2010 in his second of four years at Henry, where he serves as the school IT. He is believed to be the only coach in state history to win a regional at three different schools.
After a four-year hiatus, he returned to Hall in 2016, finishing with a 213-189-4 record over 11 years in two stints.
Salazar’s teams were always known for their defense, which brings him great pride.
“We tried to make sure that the ball never hit the floor without us touching it one time at least,” he said.
Upsetting Lemont Mt. Assisi for the super-sectional crown and going to state in 2005 ranks among his most memorable experiences coaching.
“Going to state was awesome. That’s a kind of experience that you need to have, and I know it’s hard to do,” he said.
The longtime coach said the kids never changed over the years.
“They want to work. They want to succeed, and I don’t think they have ever changed at all,” he said. “I know they have a lot of side distractions, but when they played for me, they never changed.”
Salazar will finish the grade school season this year at Henry but said he doesn’t see coaching beyond that happening.