Edgerton's Wanless announces retirement
EDGERTON Mark Wanless never thought it would be a going-away present when he was selected to be a head coach this summer in the Wisconsin high school basketball state all-star games.
But that’s the way it’ll turn out—a last hurrah for the veteran Edgerton High coach, who has directed the Crimson Tide boys to some of their greatest seasons and held the position for the longest of anybody in history.
Wanless surprised of lot of people, including himself, in announcing his retirement this week after 18 years as the Tide’s top man and 38 years of coaching, 34 of which have come in Edgerton.
After serving 12 seasons as junior varsity coach under Tom Repka, Wanless became the Crimson Tide’s head coach in 1993-94. The Reedsburg native went on to a 287-170 varsity record at Edgerton, including the only two 20-win seasons in school history and Edgerton’s only WIAA regional championship in last 38 years.
That gave Wanless a 458-272 record for all levels of coaching, which he had planned to continue for two more years. But the recent cost-cutting policies by Gov. Scott Walker prompted a sudden change in Wanless’ plans, also leading to his retirement as an English teacher.
“It was very sudden, and one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,”
Wanless said. “But it just made sense to do it.”
However, Wanless already senses how much he is giving up.
“I’m going to miss it tremendously,” he said. “It’s been a huge passion of mine my whole life—teaching and coaching.”
But there’s no turning back. The basketball position has been posted, Wanless said, and he expects it to be filled as early as May.
Meanwhile, after his final school year, Wanless will concentrate on coaching the Division 3 South boys in the all-star game. He’ll house a talented group of almost- statewide seniors in Edgerton in preparation for the June 18 game at the UW Field House in Madison.
“I didn’t know it would be like this when I got the job,” Wanless said of the all-star appointment that preceded his retirement announcement. “But it still will be a great experience.”
The same can be said of Wanless’ long tenure with the Tide.
“I don’t have one particular favorite moment,” Wanless said. “There have been so many favorite moments. I worked for Tom (Repka) for a long time, and been fortunate to have so many good assistant coaches.”
And year after year, the Wanless staff put it together—often overachieving, in the eyes of many observers.
“Each team was a special team, with special memories, regardless of the won-lost record,” Wanless said.
The most special in the record books would be Wanless’ two Rock Valley championship teams. Led by Nick Papendieck, the conference Player of the Year, the Tide ruled with 20-2 season record in 2003-04. Bryan Gregory, another Player of the Year, then led the way to 20-3 title season in 2007-08.
But the 2001-02 season also was extra special. With a 70-59 regional championship win over Evansville, an Edgerton team led by Danny Towns earned the school’s first sectional berth since the locally famous Class A regional sweep of Janesville Parker, Janesville Craig and Monroe in 1973.
No matter what the year, though, Wanless’ teams always had the relentless trait of a strong work ethic.
“We’ve always said that if you want to find success in life, you have to work hard to get it, and I had kids who were willing do that that,” Wanless said. “We were fortunate to have to really good kids—ones who would go the extra mile and do the work.”
Wanless combined that to make it work with what he learned through the years.
“I took a lot from a lot of coaches,’’ he said. “When I first started, it was Bobby Knight, and then Dick Bennett. I also learned so much from Tom Repka, and I worked camps with Bo Ryan when he was still at Platteville.
“Between Ryan and Bennett, both stressed team play and hard work, with ‘putting the team before me’ philosophy,’ and that’s the way we’ve always tried to be.”
Now, it’ll be somebody else’s turn try their hand at carrying on the tradition.
“Whoever they hire, I’ll let them establish their identity,” Wanless said.
And he’ll take his going-away present with great delight, he says.