Saturday, January 10, 2009

On the Brink

A repost of Wabash SID Brent Harris' recent blog about Little Giant head basketball coach, Mac Petty. A win today over visiting Wooster would give Mac his 500th career victory ...

This weekend could be a very special one for the Wabash basketball program and for its head coach.

With Saturday's win at Allegheny, head coach Mac Petty picked up his 499th career collegiate coaching victory. He currently ranks 12th among active Division III coaches in total victories and will become the 24th coach in DIII history to pick up 500 wins.

Petty's success should be no surprise. He was a two-year letter winner as a member of the University of Tennessee basketball team and the 1967 Southeastern Conference hoops title. Petty was also an outstanding baseball player, helping the Volunteers to the 1966 SEC crown and was recently inducted into the Greater Akron Baseball Hall of Fame for his exploits on the diamond in high school. He is a member of the Wabash Athletics and Montgomery County Basketball Halls of Fame. Petty was the National Division III Coach of the Year after guiding his Little Giant team to the 1982 national title.

I've been fortunate to know Mac for several years. I first saw him at the Little Giants' 1981 win over DePauw as Wabash prepared for the NCAA tournament and the run for the title. Over the years I covered his son, Matt, as a member of the Crawfordsville High School basketball team. When I added Wabash College to my beat as the local radio station sports director, Mac and I would sit down for pre- and post-game interviews. Even then, Mac was always coaching. The talks were less about the particulars of the game and more about what he wanted his players to accomplish.

That is Mac Petty's true legacy. The wins are nice, but as he joked on the bus on the way back from a victory at Rose-Hulman (his 450th career win at Wabash and 497th overall) he said it's just a sign you've been a head coach for a long time. It's funny but it's not necessarily true. Petty has been a coach for 36 year, but his success can be measured in the success of his players after their careers at Wabash. Come to the annual alumni basketball and watch the conversations between the players and Petty. The admiration and respect these men show for their former head coach can't be measured. Time and time again I hear stories about how much Coach Petty has meant to them in their day-to-day lives. I see the emails and letters and hear about phone conversations between Mac and his players. He still holds a special place in their lives.

Hopefully the Little Giants can win Saturday's game against Wooster. A victory would be the first by a Wabash team against the Scots at Chadwick Court in the history of the rivalry and would be a key win in the North Coast Athletic Conference standings. It would also be a memorable moment for a man who has provided so much to so many Wabash men in his 33 years on the bench for the Little Giants.

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