EVELETH — Robert “Bobo” Kochevar dedicated more than three decades of his life to coaching and teaching at Eveleth High School.
The legendary coach known for his loyalty to players, students, their families and the people of Eveleth passed away last month at the age of 84.
A celebration of life in his honor is set for Friday, July 3, at Margie’s Roosevelt Bar in Eveleth from 1-3 p.m. The celebration is a means for any friends, former players, students, coaches, officials and anyone else to come and share stories and have fun remembering Kochevar’s life.
Kochevar was the head coach of the 1993 Eveleth hockey team that won a state championship. He also led the 1990 Eveleth baseball team to their last state tournament berth. He also coached football for Eveleth as well.
Last year, Kochevar was the recipient of the Jim Dimick Retired High School Baseball Coach of the Year Award, given to him by the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association.
Kochevar’s son “Buck” says his father’s legacy is exactly what a dad, coach and teacher should strive to be.
“He just modeled what the perfect character of a father, coach and teacher should be like,” “Buck” Kochevar said in a telephone interview from the Twin Cities. “He taught me patience, loyalty and honesty. I think, for the most part, he led by example on all of those.
“He had the ability to build relationships and I think a as a coach and a teacher and a father, that’s why you need to be successful. He’s the only guy I know that could coach three varsity sports, bartend on the weekends and never argue with a parent.”
“Buck” was able to coach with his father on the 1990 baseball team that went to state and says that’s one of the best memories he has of his father as a coach. He also helped coach the year before when Eveleth had high expectations to do well.
“He let me coach third base that year we went to state. He called me the Riverboat Gambler. We had a squad where we liked to live on the edge. We stole a lot of bases and bunted a lot. He told me if he didn’t like the calls I was making, he’d touch his ear. He was always touching his ears but I’d go through with the calls anyway. It was nice to see him let me take that control.”
When Eveleth ended up beating top-seeded Greenway to go to state that year, “Buck” says the moment they came out on top was a memory he’ll never forget.
“We were up in Ely and he was coaching first base. When that final out was made, he jumped up but slipped on his way down. But it didn’t matter. Everyone was hugging him. It was such a big moment, a really great memory.
Mesabi Range baseball coach Chris Vito played for Kochevar on that 1990 team and was the one who nominated him for the retired baseball coach award. Vito says that he, himself, is a prime example of Kochevar’s impact on students and players throughout the years.
“There’s no question that ‘Bobo’ pushed me in the direction of coaching,” Vito said. “I’m a coach because of him, hands down. He was a mentor of mine right up until the day he died and will continue to be. I constantly reflect back on the lessons he taught me.”
Vito says that Kochevar’s style of coaching is one that’s hard to replicate and that it put people before the game.
“You can put everything about the Xs and Os aside. It was the big picture things that he taught kids. It was how to run a program with class, integrity and pride.
“I remember one time complaining about how other teams had better equipment or uniforms than us. He told me, ‘Chris, you complain about what you don’t have, but it does nothing but take away time that you could be using to figure out how to work with what you do have to make the best opportunity for the kids.’ I’ll never forget that as long as I live.”
Vito says Kochevar definitely lived by those words, evident by the way he held indoor practices.
“We held practices in the old gym in Eveleth and he knew how to use every inch of that space to get the team ready. You never heard him complain about it either.”
Not just remembered as a coach, Vito says Kochevar’s impact as an elementary school teacher for over 30 years is still felt to this day as well.
“He just meant so much to so many people. He really had a positive impact on countless lives. It’s not just athletes you’ll hear rave about him. The people that had him as an instructor talk so highly of him as well. So many people were hoping to get him as a teacher when they were going into sixth grade.”
Whether it was in the classroom or on the field, Kochevar’s presence was huge. Vito says, ultimately, being a good person was key to “Bobo’s” success as a coach and educator.
“He’d say, ‘They’re going to need to know how much you care before they care how much you know.’ His death is a big loss, a huge loss for the community.”
The head girls’ hockey coach at Lakeville North, Kochevar’s son “Buck” is approaching 300 wins and says he’s taken his father’s attitude to heart.
“If you build the relationships, your players will rise and that’s the attitude he had and that’s the attitude I try to have,” “Buck” Kochevar said. “The Xs and Os are nice, but telling stories and getting kids excited is what he excelled at. Nobody ever panicked when he was coaching, he was so relaxed and even keel every step of the way.”
On the celebration of life in Kochevar’s name, his son wanted to make sure his father had a good send off.
“We only had immediate family at the funeral, but he wouldn’t have wanted many more there otherwise. So we thought it was better if people could meet at the bar and tell a few stories, have a couple of pops and reminisce. Chris Vito helped us get this all set up and we thought it would be the perfect send off for him. He had so many stories as a coach and now we can share stories about him.”