Personally Speaking

by H. Joe Weyand
“Who knows how long this will last. Now we’ve come so far so fast.”
-- Don Henley, formerly of The Eagles

I can still remember standing on the floor of the Bob Devaney Sports Center that Thursday March morning of 1990, video camera in hand, anticipating another opportunity to capture the excitement of a championship experience for posterity. I should have been brimming with enthusiasm since this time I had more of a role to play. I wasn’t just a faculty member, a citizen of Wahoo; I was a parent of a player -- with my son, Joel on the varsity squad, I was in the enviable position of joining in on the hoopla with little of the stress that the parents of the upper classmen were experiencing as their sons carried the Wahoo torch into another tournament. It should have been a situation where I was able to kick back and enjoy. But instead, I found myself conflicted, angry, and a little depressed. I did my best to set those feelings aside as the Warriors made their championship run that weekend, but was not entirely successful.

Just two days earlier, I had been called to the office and informed that my coaching duties (head girls basketball coach) were to be “reassigned.” The ‘89 - ‘90 season for the girls had not been as successful as preceding years, but the girls had managed to complete a winning season and finished with a very competitive effort in the semifinals of the District Tournament in a loss to the eventual champion, Raymond Central. I had been asked to resign my coaching duties, but in a fit of stubbornness, refused to do so as I was proud of the job I had done in my six years and was not given any reason for the “reassignment.” Without going into detail, suffice it to say that my resistance was futile and I had coached my last game at Wahoo. The firing (excuse me, “reassigning) was extremely disillusioning to me -- I had not seen it coming at all. For me, it was an “end of innocence.” I would be out of coaching for the next eleven years until 2002 when Mark Watton would extend me an opportunity to assist him in coaching the Prague boys.

When I was able to shake off my personal despondency I was beaming with pride -- I had a freshman son on a team competing for a state title. As Joel entered high school, he had high aspirations and was determined to compete for a spot on the varsity squad -- something I knew was at least possible as I was very familiar with Coach Anderson’s program and knew he had used freshmen in the past -- most recently and most notably both Troy and Jason Glock. But I also knew the 1990 version of the Warriors would be a very good team and for a freshman to crack that lineup would be a major challenge. And there was the element of need -- when Coach Anderson had turned to freshmen in the past, it was because there was a dire need at a position that the freshman could fill and help the varsity to win games. That was a tall order for a freshman looking at the players Wahoo had returning from 1989.

But we had been encouraged when, during the summer leagues and camps, Joel had been elevated (along with fellow freshmen Ryan Glock and Justin Anderson) to play with the junior varsity. He played well and by the time the basketball season started had secured a starting position with the j.v. But the question of actually earning one of the twelve varsity uniforms still loomed. When the first game program was issued, his name was not on the varsity list, but he did suit up for the game. Joel suited up and played in all of the regular season games in ‘89 - ‘90. The junior varsity team was undefeated and mirrored the domination of the varsity over their opponents. He was part of the “mop up” crew that pushed Wahoo’s offensive production to such record heights. But he didn't actually get listed on the program until the Holiday Tournament. At District Tournament time, he was selected as one of the 12 to suit up. When he was introduced as a freshman player on a Class B state tournament team at the Devaney Sports Center that morning I know I had a smile on my face.

Many probably questioned Coach Anderson’s use of a freshman that season. After all, they hardly needed Joel’s services to win ball games -- he was never on the court when a game was in question. But I knew he was a valuable asset to that team. While coaching the girls team, I had numerous opportunities to watch some of the varsity boys practices as we would be waiting to take the court when the boys were done. Of course, I stretched those opportunities a little by arriving quite early for the girls practices. On those occasions when I stood in the corner of the gym, one of the only parents with such viewing privileges, I saw what some of the upper classmen attested to as the phenomenal success of the team continued. Some had called the practices “war.” I can’t say that I saw “war” but I can say that I saw a very high level of basketball played in a very competitive spirit. I would even say that I saw some of the best “games” of the season when I watched the “first” and “second” teams compete at those practices. I would argue that it was during those practices that Joel earned his spot on that varsity. He and the other members of the “second team” pushed the starters to get better. And it goes without question that those players were competing -- for a starting position, for playing time. It is one of the compliments that I would extend to Coach Anderson and his staff that they were able to keep that competitive edge in practice and yet put a unified team on the court on game night. There was an abundance of talent on that ‘89 - ‘90 team and they would all have liked to have been starters, leading scorers, recognized as great players. And those that didn’t start looked across the floor at their opponents each game and had to think that they could have been starting for that team. Juggling all that talent would continue to be a challenge for the Wahoo coaches in subsequent seasons as well. Somehow those coaches kept that team together, focused on their goal.

I had captured quite a bit of the ‘89 - ‘90 season on videotape, but I did miss some games due to my coaching duties. For example, even though I was at the Holiday Tournament games, I was too busy coaching and scouting for the girls that I didn’t take any time to videotape the boys. But by the end of the season I did have a very good representative sample of the boys’ season on tape and from that footage I produced a comprehensive highlight video -- first completing a segment on the District and State tournaments to have it ready for the community celebration and then adding the regular season segment later. Being around that team a lot that winter, I noticed a change taking place. From the inside, the pressure of the win streak and the quest for a third title, an accomplishment that would set this team apart from all others, was turning the Wahoo basketball experience from a journey of joy to a journey of apprehension. Players and coaches acknowledged that losing the state title would have made the season a “disappointment.” The 1990 team had turned that corner and set the 1991 team on a course that would become more and more about not losing rather than winning.

From the outside, there was also a turning. For two years, fans not associated with either team in the state final had sided more with the Warriors as they battled the big city Pius Thunderbolts -- the school with multiple championships and perennial contender against the school fighting to win their first titles. By the time the Warriors faced Grand Island Northwest, that tide had turned to at least an equal balance of support for the two teams. Some still rooted for the Warriors and wanted to witness the records being set. But others were growing tired of the yearly spectacle of blue and gold camping out at the Sports Center and boasting of their laurels.

There would be a hard edge to the ‘90 - ‘91 season that had been forged by the previous success. Unlike their predecessors who had yet to experience playing under the burden of a win streak and a string of state titles, the 1991 team had already begun carrying that sword and knew how heavy it could get -- and they could imagine how much heavier it would become as they approached the lofty goals that were set for them. Make no mistake, victories would still bring joy and the game would still produce moments of exultation. But the wide-eyed “wow” was slowly being replaced by the deep breathed “whew.” Don Henley had it pegged: “This is the end, this is the end of the innocence.”

Joel Weyand being introduced at the State Tournament on Thursday, March 8, 1990.
The Wahoo fans had become veterans of the state tournament and filled Wahoo's side of the Devaney Sports Center even for a 9:00 a.m. game.

For the first home game of the season against Logan View there were only ten players listed as Varsity. Four freshmen had been promoted to the Junior Varsity. Sophomores Trent Toline and Jeff Simons were on the varsity roster but would start and play for the junior varsity.

For the Holiday and Conference Tournament games, 14 names were listed on the program -- the original 10, plus Jeremy Herrmann, Joel Weyand, Justin Anderson, and Ryan Glock . Those 14 names first appeared on the home program for the Ashland game on Feb. 2nd.
For the District Tournament (and State Tournament) the same 14 names were on the program, but NSAA rules allow only 12 players to be in uniform for the games. In 1990, Joel and Justin got the nod to suit up for the tournament. In subsequent years, Wahoo would adopt a policy of rotating the last uniform or two, but in 1990 the players in uniform for the first game were to remain the same for the entire tournament. Whether that was a change in the NSAA rules or just a recognition of the option by the Wahoo coaching staff is unclear.