He had grown up not far from St. Louis, just to the southwest of the metro area, and basically lived and breathed the game of basketball.

For Randy Albrecht, you could say that coaching the sport was his destiny. After all, he lived right across the street from the local high school and often attended basketball games at its gym.

So fast forward to 1977. That’s when Meramec Community College came calling and seeking a coach.

“I inherited a well-run program from coach Jack Mimlitz,” Albrecht said. “We had no scholarships at that time. Our primary recruits were players qualifying for financial aid or who could afford community college tuition.”

Albrecht built a winning reputation at Meramec, and it’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Albrecht with the Class of 2023.

Albrecht was one of the state’s most successful basketball coaches at the collegiate level. He worked the St. Louis Community College-Meramec sidelines for 36 years.

That covered 28 consecutive winning seasons, including a 20-12 mark in his final year. With 736 career junior college victories, he finished the 2012-2013 season ranked eighth among active National Junior College Athletic Association coaches.

Along the way, he was an 11-time Region XVI Coach of the Year and earned induction to the Halls of Fame for the NJCAA, the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association and STLCCC-Meramec.

His 1988-1989 team was ranked No. 1 for much of the season.

“(His initial recruiting strategy) worked until the late ‘70s when many rural colleges, offering scholarships, began recruiting in St. Louis city,” Albrecht said. “Eventually, the NJCAA created a Division II basketball tournament, which allowed D-II schools to offer tuition/books but no housing or meals.”

Meramec then won five of the first six D-II tournaments and played in the NJCAA Tournament in Bay City, Michigan.

Albrecht’s formula for success was from identifying recruits, develop their skills, adapt his coaching to the players’ talent and then help them go on to the next level.

“Philosophically, I was in sync with Meramec’s athletic mission. Our goal was to offer our student-athletes from our service areas (St. Louis city and county), and the opportunities to develop their skills for advancement in their individual sports. We were not in the business of providing entertainment or making money,” Albrecht said. “There was little press or media coverage, no booster clubs, or full-time assistant coaches. Success was measured by helping our athletes attain scholarships and opportunities to continue their educations.”

Coaching was his calling. Albrecht lived around the gym as a kid. You see, he grew up in Sparta, Illinois and began playing organized basketball at age 10.

Because he lived across the street from Sparta High School, he attended numerous basketball games and practices.

Once in high school, he became a standout, playing varsity all four seasons as a starting guard. As a senior, the team won its first conference championship, and Albrecht was named All-State. He later was inducted into the Sparta High School Athletics Hall of Fame, having scored more than 1,000 points.

He later earned a four-year scholarship to Saint Louis University, led the freshman team in scoring and lettered three times.

Albrecht then started his coaching career in 1966 as an SLU assistant and led the freshmen teams to a 44-16 record in four seasons. He then was named head coach at Saint Louis University in 1974.

That was at a great time for college basketball, and he counted UCLA’s John Wooden, North Carolina’s Dean Smith, Indiana’s Bob Knight and Marquette’s Al McGuire as notable influences – Wooden for his fundamental soundness, Smith for his organization and innovation, Knight for his communication and toughness, and McGuire for his gamesmanship.

With those qualities, Albrecht’s Meramec teams soared. In 1988, his team lost the national championship to the host school. The next season, Meramec started 17-1 and earned a No. 1 ranking in NJCAA D-II. The team was led by All-American guard Marvin Moorhead. Years later, the 2004 team finished third nationally, and the 2011 team finished fourth nationally – and set the school record for wins (29).

Overall, Albrecht had the support of his family, especially his wife.

“My wife, Linda, was the perfect basketball coach’s wife,” Albrecht said. “Our 58 years of marriage were blessed with the understanding of what was required to accommodate all the time for scouting, recruiting, practices and games. There were sophomore appreciation nights when a player’s mom did not attend and Linda would graciously sub and greet the player.”