By STU SWARTZ
THE GOSHEN NEWS
There is a popular term used in basketball when a player is in double figures in two major statistical categories such as points and rebounds. The term is double-double.
Steve Wiktorowski is taking on a double-double of a slightly different variety.
The current Wawasee High School athletic director was hired by the Wawasee Community School Corporation Board Tuesday night as the school’s new boys basketball coach.
“This is uncharted waters for us,” school board president Rebecca Linnemeier said.
It could be a growing trend as Elkhart Memorial High School just hired it’s highly-succesful volleyball coach Jacique Rost as their new Athletic Director.
“This was the best solution for Wawasee,” Wiktorowski said.
Wiktorowski replaces Phil Mishler who resigned last month after leading the Warrior program to a 168-126 record in 13 seasons.
“About three-and-a-half weeks ago Phil and I talked,” Wiktorowski said. “I really expected him to be back, but it was his choice. The timing of his resignation put us in a tough position, because the new coach would not have any time during the summer with the kids.”
Wiktorowski is the 11th coach in the Wawasee program since the initial season in 1968-69.
Vernon Zurcher was 28-36 in the first three seasons, followed by Tom Spear 26-17 in two, Bob Heady 29-34 in three, Jerry Lambert 24-21 in two, Mike Jones 28-35 in three, John Wysong 68-43 in five, Gary Goshert 124-91 in 10, Jerry Davis 14-50 in three, Robb Burger 6-15 in one and Mishler.
“We had a number of applicants for the coaching job, but the only teaching position we had open was Economics,” Wawasee Principal Mike Schmidt said. “We even looked at some retired coaches who would not need a teaching job. We had one strong candidate that ended up withdrawing his name.
“Steve and I talked about two weeks ago. I asked him if he was still interested in coaching and he expressed his interest.”
Schmidt recommended Wiktorowski for the coaching job.
“Steve has done a fine job as the Athletic Director,” Schmidt wrote in his letter to the school board.
“We did not expect Phil to submit his resignation. I will be the go-to person if a head coach does not see eye to eye with Steve, If there are problems with Steve doing both jobs I will address those issues.
“In transition, we need to have an experienced coach who can build relationships with students and continue the tradition of Wawasee basketball. Steve will bring character, class and honor to our program.”
Wiktorowski has 30 years of coaching experience, including 23 as a boys head coach at Fairfield and Prairie Heights high schools and the women’s coach at Goshen College.
“My last coaching job was at Goshen College so there will be a few adjustments,” he said.
“I will not have to deal with a shot clock or the recruitment of players. But now I will have to deal with a feeder system to develop players.
“The worst thing about taking over in mid-July is that it puts us behind other schools that have been working with kids over the summer. But one of the best parts about athletics is finding ways to overcome situations like that.
“We had a very young team last season and we will have a very young team again this coming season. There are some young kids with experience that we hope can take a step forward.”
Wiktorowski talked about the challenges of balancing the two jobs.
“When I was hired as Athletic Director there were discussions with the coaches about the sharing of athletes and facilities,” he added.
“There are sports that bring in more money than others but that doesn’t mean they are more important than the others. No matter what the sport is it is important to someone.”
Mishler coached a style of play that featured shooting a lot of 3-pointers.
“My philosophy is different than Phil’s,” Wiktorowski said.
“We will employ some of his techniques, but we will look to be more balanced. While we will still take 3-point shots because we have the shooters to do so, we will also look for the high-percentage shots. The offense will be more diverse. There will be techniques from the college game that I will bring into our program.”
Steve and his wife Donna have two children. Troy graduated from Goshen High School last spring and will be going to Purdue University this fall and Erin will be a sophomore at Wawasee.
Erin plays basketball and Wiktorowski talked about the role of father to his already busy slate.
“I will still get to see her play,” he said. “I was already going to be at most of her home games. There may have to be some adjustments on road games and on Saturday games.”
He also shared about the importance of support from his family, the school system and the community.
“If I would not be getting the kind of support I have from the school board I would not be here even trying to attempt this,” he said.