HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Indiana's Dave Woodall captures 300th career win
January 24, 2014 10:40 AM
by MATTHEW BURGLUND
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The sincerity is easy to pick up when Dave Woodall speaks.

He’s not in this business to stroke his own ego, and he’s not in it to soothe a competitive streak from his playing days.

No, Dave Woodall is a basketball coach because it’s fun. And that’s the only reason he is still in the game, 18 years after he first took over the Indiana High School girls’ team and wondered to himself, What have I gotten myself into?

Those thoughts of self-doubt seemed like a distant memory Thursday night when Woodall guided the Indians to an easy 50-36 win in a non-conference game against Allderdice at Fifth Street Gymnasium.

It wasn’t just another win in what is shaping up to be another banner year for the Indians: It was Woodall’s 300th career victory, and whether he liked it or not, the night belonged to him.

“Actually, I don’t feel like I’ve won any of those games,” he said earnestly. “The kids won them all.”

Technically speaking, that’s true. The hundreds of players who have taken the floor under Woodall’s guidance scored the points, grabbed the rebounds and applied the pressure necessary to win 300 times. But none of it would have happened if it weren’t for Woodall and his longtime assistant, Otto Peterson, who has been beside the boss for all 300 wins.

“They’re amazing,” gushed Indiana’s Lucy Bujdos, who had 10 points and grabbed 19 rebounds in the milestone win. “I couldn’t ask for better coaches. I can’t even think of the perfect word — they’re just perfect — to describe them. I can’t think of anybody else I’d want as my basketball coaches.”

Predictably, Woodall refused to take all the credit for all the wins.

“Otto has been with me every step of the way,” he said. “Every victory I have had, he’s had, too. He’s an excellent assistant coach. But this is truly a team game.”

The team concept was on display against Allderdice (5-9), a member of the Pittsburgh City League. While the Dragons relied on guard Sierra Fordham to shoulder the load — she scored 25 of her team’s 36 points — the Indians spread things around. Kaitlyn Hoff led things with 23 points, but Bujdos dominated the glass, Jess Stever played solid defense, Zoe Zahorchak was a presence in the paint, and Abbey Karcher proved to be an outside threat.

And as Indiana (13-3) cruises toward the WPIAL playoffs with hopes of winning another section title, Woodall wants his team focused on taking care of business and getting better every day. The Indians are tied with Mount Pleasant for the moment, but they seemed poised to pull away after their 10th consecutive win.

“The nice thing about this whole thing is that we have everything in our control,” Woodall said. “We don’t need anybody to do anything for us. Even if we end up tied with Mount Pleasant at the end of the year, we have the better overall record and we beat them last, and we beat them by quite a bit. So we could only mess this up by not being ready to play.”

The Indians were ready, and after a back-and-forth first quarter, they pulled away and never let Allderdice get closer than seven points in the second half.

“Everyone felt so much more pressure for this game — and it’s not even a section game,” Bujdos said. “Just the feeling once we kind of knew we were going to win … it was a nice feeling, just for the coaches.”

Indiana’s easy win was certainly another example of good coaching mixed with good players. But that’s nothing new for a program that has blossomed over the past two decades into one of the most consistent winners in the WPIAL.

“I’m happy, not only for him, but for Otto, too,” said Megan Mills, Woodall’s daughter and his other assistant coach. “They put in more work than people would believe. … They put in so much work with these girls, and they enjoy it. … You’re just happy because they kind of get a little bit of the recognition. Sometimes coaches don’t get all the recognition they deserve.”

Woodall was presented with a plaque after the game, and his milestone accomplishment was announced to the fans left in the gymnasium. He sheepishly accepted the award, and then he ushered his team away to the locker room. It was only after talking to the team that Woodall would let himself think much about the 300 wins. But he was quick to share the accolades.

“It’s neat that I’ve been able to coach 18 years in one place, and I think that means it’s a special place,” he said. “I’ve gotten a lot of support from a lot of people, like the school board, the athletic department, the parents and the kids themselves.”

But there’s more to it than that, isn’t it?

A coach who doesn’t know his X’s and O’s wouldn’t last 18 years on the job, and one who didn’t know how to get the best effort out of his players would have lost the job years ago.

So despite what he says, the 300 wins speak volumes about the quality of coach that Woodall has become.

But why is he still at it? Woodall retired from his teaching job a few years ago, and he’s a grandfather now. He could be spending his time on the golf course or in the garden. Instead, he’s breaking down game film and scouting opponents for the upcoming playoffs. Oh, and he and Peterson also coach the Indiana junior high team.

But why?

That’s an easy question, one Woodall can answer without much thought.

“I know it’s well overused, but it’s fun,” he said. “We have a blast. This current group is a lot of fun. That’s all it is. It’s not like we have competitive fires that we just can’t quench. The girls are fun. This is a good time. The girls work hard for us. They’re respectful. As long as we’re semi-successful, I don’t see any reason not to do this. If it wasn’t fun, if it was a chore, I wouldn’t be doing this. I’d be retired.”

So with 300 wins in his back pocket, will Woodall start looking ahead to 400?

“No way,” he said with a chuckle. “We just talk about making the playoffs and seeing how far we can go.”

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