It’s not the same game, as I’m reminded constantly, so picking the most worthy candidate for girls Coach of The Year takes more sorting out. Here’s our best effort.
One can make the case for a number of area coaches … that each of them has gone above and beyond to develop that certain “it” factor needed to win in girls basketball.
“It’s not the same game,” I hear a lot, too, that familiar old argument – that the girls’ game is more limited as a result of physical and athletic differences. Girls don’t dunk, they’re not as strong, or as fast, whatever.
Well, Kelsey Mitchell (Ohio State’s All-American guard) doesn’t dunk, I’ll agree. But as far as athletic, strong, fast, and whatever…she’d embarrass a lot of area boys who would try to defend her.
And a close study of successful programs shows that the girls who win, just like boys, are the ones who possess superior requisite skills. They can handle the ball, they can shoot the ball, they defend and they rebound. As far as I can tell, that’s the “it” factor, the same as in boys.
But for the fact of picking a Coach of The Year in the girls game, it’s probably tougher than with boys, and even more contingent upon the disparity in competition between leagues and divisions.
For whatever reason Division I basketball in the area has not been strong, overall, for years. Given the overall geography of our region, there simply aren’t a lot of Division I schools, or shining examples.
In Division II, Tipp has been the one shining example. Yet, the Red Devils perennially run into that buzz saw in the regional round of the tournament named Kettering Alter.
In Division III, make the case for Versailles, and coach Jacki Stonebraker, as they again campaign for a trip next week to Columbus and their third state title in a decade.
But it’s in Division IV, where there seems to the most parity, probably because basketball at Russia, at Loramie, Fort Recovery, Tri-Village, and Jackson Center has been a community legacy now for generations.
All that understood, in Division II you tip your hat to Tipp’s Andy Holderman for maintaining a tradition of tough defense, again the backbone of the ‘Devils’ success in 2017.
In Division III Stonebraker has become such a constant in girls basketball that it’s front page news when Versailles isn’t ranked or a regional contender.
And at Ft. Recovery, where girls basketball is an oft-overlooked tradition, Brian Patch went a long way again this season in contesting for superiority in the MAC conference.
At Arcanum, the Trojans broke out of the pack this year with a fine year under Matt Grote. They lost in the district finals last Saturday.
But in Division IV the picture is like one of those big table puzzles where the last piece determines the clarity of the picture.
At Russia first-year coach Andy Timmerman made the Raiders competitive for the Shelby County League title right up until the final week of the season.
At Loramie, Carla Siegel’s young team was offensively challenged all year, yet, she still found a way to make a race of it with Russia and Jackson Center.
At Jackson Center, Jeff Reese, in his first year, won the Shelby County League title and has the Tigers in this week’s regional round, seeking a return to the Division IV Final Four next week in Columbus.
Frankly, you can make a strong case for the job that long-time basketball name Jim Meyer did at Covington, taking over that program late to resurrect their fortunes and lead them to a 17-win regular season.
Serious consideration has to go to Tri-Village, and Brad Gray, who were undefeated an ranked #2 in the state before falling to Versailles three weeks ago…and still ranked #2 in the state with just one loss as they enter this weekend’s regional competition.
But when you measure all the variables – strength of schedule, expectations, and the on again-off again manner in which he came by the job last summer – our pick for girls Coach of The Year would settle on Mike Wiss, of the 25-2 Minster Wildcats.
It is an interesting scenario as to how he agreed to take the job, reconsidered, and considered again in replacing long-time legend Nann Stechschulte when she stepped down last spring…after 440 wins, 18 sectional titles, nine district titles, three regionals, and two state titles. No one had a higher standard to take over and maintain.
And while it’s true that Wiss has two state titles of his own as the baseball coach at Minster, it’s also important to realize that he was Stechschulte’s JV coach and bench assistant for a long, long time, and during many of her most successful campaigns. Bottom line, Mike Wiss has always had A LOT to do with building the tradition of girls basketball at Minster.
So, unlike other contenders, the legacy that Wiss took on with Wildcats was unusually high. He didn’t flinch, because he helped create it.
He’s a details person, principled, and one look at him with that close-cut Marine haircut tells you that very little escapes him during the course of a basketball game.
Competitive? He survived the MAC gauntlet this season unbeaten, taking down Versailles (who dealt Tri-Village its only loss) and Fort Recovery (19-3) along the way, and had his team on each of those nights at the height of their game, undeterred by the opponent’s record or reputation. His team was up to the challenge.
Perhaps his biggest accomplishment is simply surviving the expectations. With Rosie Westerbeck, Alli Fischer, Lindsay Roetgerman and Courtney Prenger returning, nothing less than a regional appearance was expected. He’s achieved that.
No, it’s not as cut and dry as with boys basketball, considering all, but in particular, the overall strength of competition and expectations set him apart. But asked to walk a mile in Mike Wiss’s shoes, I can’t think of many other worthy candidates that wouldn’t agree…he’s deserving of a little recognition outside of lunch at the Rotary Club.
He’s our 2017 girls Coach of The Year…the last piece in the puzzle at Minster.