Lebanon — For the past three decades, Mick Milakovic has helped shape lives of adolescents through being a teacher and coach.
But after 32 years in education, the Lebanon teacher and girls golf coach has decided it is time to retire.
"The opportunity was there and I am looking forward to it," Milakovic said of retirement. "My wife and I have been having conversations about what we want to do in the future, and we are at a point in our lives that allows us to travel more and see our kids all around the country. It is a perfect time to travel more and see the family."
Lebanon Athletic Director Phil Levine thanked Milakovic for everything he has done at Lebanon.
"Over several years Mick has had a positive influence and impact on the lives of many student athletes," Levine said in a statement. "His willingness to help out in any way, whether it be as head coach, assistant coach or volunteer has been greatly appreciated. He has spent countless hours away from his family at LHS being a true leader and tremendous role model, not just for our athletes but all students. His work ethic, dedication and commitment to helping students achieve success in the academic and athletic arena is simply the best. I congratulate Mick on his well-deserved retirement and wish him, his wife and family all the best."
Milakovic started his teaching and coaching career at Lowell, and after three years moved to Zionsville, where he was for 11 years.
He has been at Lebanon for the past 17 years, including 12 as the girls golf coach.
Milakovic also coached wrestling and football and varies levels during his career. He has amassed more than 500 wins as a head coach.
He informed the current members of the team on Tuesday that he would not be coming back.
"It was honestly probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do," Milakovic said. "Just finishing the end of the school year was tough, because there were several moments where I realized this would be the last time I would be doing this. I didn't decide to step away from coaching until about two weeks ago, and that was very, very difficult. Golf, and sports in general, is really the place where you have common ground as a coach and athlete, all trying to get one goal. And I am going to miss that."
Prior to Milakovic coming in as head coach, Lebanon had only won one sectional title, in 1973.
In the past 12 years, the Tigers have won nine, including the last four. They qualified for the regional 11 times, and coached Mattie Lindner to back-to-back State Finals appearances in 2010 and 2011.
The Tigers won nine Sagamore Conference titles and set the conference record with a 319 in 2011.
Milakovic said there were a few moments from his career that stood out.
"The first is in my second year as coach, we won several tournaments that year, including the WeBo Invite where we beat Western who was ranked eighth or ninth at the time," Milakovic recalled. "I remember driving back with my daughter (who was on the team) that night just really happy and not believing it. That was really a springboard for the team and they went on to win conference and the sectional for the first time since 1973.
"The second moment was Kelsey Huse at the McCutcheon Tournament her senior year. She hit a really nice shot on a par-3 to within 15-20 feet and then I saw her re-hit it almost in the same spot for some reason and then made the putt for what I thought was a par, but she told me that she had noticed that she teed up ahead of the tee box and called a penalty on herself, even though no one else in the group saw it. That was such an awesome moment because it was what the game of golf is all about — integrity. I was so impressed and proud of her.
"The third group is the senior group two years ago, the triplets of Maci French, Josi Greene and Megan Sosbe. They were a special group that really rewrote the Lebanon record books and were perfect examples of what our program is about."
When he looks back at his career, Milakovic said that he is happy with where the program is at.
He said the thing he is most proud of is the family-like atmosphere around Lady Tigers golf.
"I am very happy with the condition of the program," he said. "Whoever the next coach is will step into a young team that has some talent and plays a good schedule. Everything is in place for them. We have had some really great kids and have created a great family of Lebanon golf. The parents have been outstanding too. I feel very fortunate to have been their coach and that I can retire my way and on my terms."