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Monday, April 15, 2024

Lessons from Coach Winters

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MIKE WINTERS still exudes calm and confident demeanor even after 25 years in high school basketball, 18 as head coach and seven as an assistant.

He was named IBCA District Coach of the Year seven times, the Sauk Valley Newspapers Coach of the Year award once in 2006 and the NIC-10 Coach of the Year in 2016. His teams also won seven conference titles, eight regional crowns and 4 sectional championships, as well as nine 20-win seasons and two 30-win seasons.

It’s a resume and a body of work worthy of a Division 1 head coaching job in a major program. Winters will consider an opportunity, if and when it presents itself, after he talks to his family. He has received offers but to him, it has to be at the right time.

He’s never been thrown out of a game. Unfortunately, I never got to ask him if he’s ever gotten a technical foul for arguing a call or arguing with an official, but I’d be surprised if he even argued a call or contested a call. If he ever did, it is because he’s fighting for his kids, he’s fighting for his players, especially if he thinks they’re getting the short end of the calls.

Winters is the head coach of the Harlem High School Huskies. The school is located in Machesney Park which is west of Chicago about an hour and a half drive and an hour and 15 minutes away from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which is the home of the newly minted National Basketball Association champion Milwaukee Bucks.

According to his book The Journey: Lessons from the Hardwood and his website coachwinters.com, “Coach Winters has coached players who have gone on to play at Kansas State, New Orleans, Florida A & M, Evansville, Southeast Missouri, Ball State, Wisconsin-Green Bay, University of Illinois-Chicago, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Air Force and many others who have competed at the Division II, Division III and JUCO levels. Two of his former players are now college head coaches.”

His coaching style is values based and his system is structured. He’s established relationships with hundreds of his players and made an impact in their lives. Two of his former players have gone on to become college head coaches, Josh Pickens at Lawrence Tech University and Jeremy Reigle at Rockford University.

Coach Winters was a guest on “Sports For All” last Saturday and I asked him everything from mental health in youth sports, to coaching against former Golden State Warrior, Sean Livingston, who’s from Chicago, to Chet Holmgren, former No. 1 high school player in the US and a 7-foot-1 incoming freshman at Gonzaga University who can shoot from anywhere on the court and who can handle the ball like a guard, in my opinion, Kevin Durant 2.0.

I also asked him about coaching his kids, McKenna in softball, and Brandon in basketball and possibly hearing whispers from their peers and their parents about being on the team only because their father is the coach. I’m sure Coach Winters has prepared his children to deal with the outside noise—their awareness is different and they’re on the outside looking in.

We also talked about his growth as a teacher and as a student of the game. Winters follows Coaches John Calipari, Rick Pitino and former Wisconsin Badgers coach Bo Ryan.

Reading his book (just finished part 1), you get a sense of how passionate this man is about coaching and that he never holds back when it comes to his players, and you begin to understand why his players are willing to run through a wall for him, if I were one of his players, I would.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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