The season was winding down and things had gone pretty much as expected. The district tournament loomed ahead and the presumption was that Wahoo would earn an eighth consecutive trip to the state tournament and claim its sixth title in seven years. But on Wednesday, February 26, 1994, things changed. An era in Wahoo basketball history ended. Coach Anderson announced his retirement from coaching the Wahoo boys basketball team.
While there had been rumors of the decision, it caught many by surprise. After all, Coach Anderson had reached a level of success rarely experienced by high school basketball coaches what reason could he possibly have for leaving? Speculation was rampant.
For those outside of the Wahoo community, one possible explanation came to mind: Coach Anderson wanted to get out on top as the Wahoo dynasty would be coming to an end. On the surface, that argument had a ring of truth as the 1994 team would lose three prolific scorers to graduation and those shoes would most probably be replaced by juniors the next season, making it the first Wahoo team in many years without proven senior leadership. But those close to the program knew that theory didn’t hold water. Granted, it would be difficult to maintain such a high level of success, but most indications were that Wahoo would continue to be an excellent basketball team. Those who had seen sophomores Josh Anderson and Mike Simons play in 1994 had little doubt that they would rise to the occasion in 1995. Bolstering that confidence was the record of the 1994 junior varsity which dominated opponents in traditional Wahoo style.
Some speculated that the Wahoo coach had simply grown weary of the constant pressure Wahoo had experienced during the past seasons, citing the long win streak and the stretch of state championships. But that didn’t seem to be the case, as the Wahoo mentor indicated that he felt less pressure during the 1994 season than in prior years. He noted that a midseason loss had eliminated any talk of win streaks and that the previous year’s title run, after the 1992 loss at the state tournament, had already affirmed the program’s legitimacy.
The most prevalent theory was that Coach Anderson was being hired away from the small community high school to perhaps a coaching position in a larger high school, or even perhaps a small college. While that proved to be inaccurate, it was probably the closest to the truth. The coach was indeed stepping down in order to take on another basketball position, but it was more an administrative position than a coaching position. Since 1981, Mr. Anderson had worked closely with the Nebraska Basketball Development Association, a group that had been put together to field a Nebraska All-Star team to compete in the summer against national competition primarily a national AAU tournament held in Las Vegas, Nevada in July. Coach Anderson had coached the organization’s first team in 1981, a team that posted a fourth place finish in the tournament. The NBDA announced that Anderson would take over directing the organization’s senior team beginning in 1995. He would be able to continue to live and teach in Wahoo.
The announcement came at a peculiar time. The team still had two regular season games left, so it wasn’t exactly at the end of the season when one might have expected it. And it was not made following the district or state tournaments maybe that was due to not wanting the choice to be viewed as connected to the success (or lack there of) in the tournaments. But the coach revealed that he had actually turned in his resignation before the season began, but did not want it to become a focal point of his team’s season. It was a small town and word was leaking out, so the decision was made to head off further speculation and make the announcement public. The coach did not want the speculation to be a distraction going into the district tournament.
In giving notice of his retirement, Coach Anderson was gracious in mentioning his gratitude to school officials, assistant coaches, the Wahoo community in general, and of course his players. Anderson noted that his decision was not related to any doubt about the future of the Wahoo program, indicating that school officials would be nominating assistant coach Mark Watton to take over the head coaching duties and that the program was “bigger than any one player, or any coach.” He also noted that the decision was partly based on the availability of the administrative position with the NBDA “I didn’t know if the NBDA opportunity would be there three, four, or five years down the road.”
As Wahoo headed into its final week of the season, the players knew this would be the last go around for their head coach. Senior Mike Hancock spoke for the team when he said, “It’s going to motivate us. We want him to go out a winner.” So the focus would stay where it had been for the last eight seasons a return trip to state and another championship. They were even more determined to get to the big dance, knowing it would be Coach Anderson’s “last dance.”