"People wouldn't think much of me as a coach if I were to change a formula that has worked so well."
-- Coach Watton
Mark Watton was the new head coach, but he wasn't new to the Wahoo bench.
Darwin Lehmann took Watton's place as JV coach, but the rest of the coaching staff remained the same.
Coaches Harry Kasischke, Bryce Cook, and Guy Dunning were holdovers from Mick Anderson's staff.


still the same ... coach watton... c1 ... senior

coach watton

The most notable change for the 1995 Warriors was the appointment of a new head coach.  For any basketball team, a change in coaches is going to present challenges.  For the 1995 Wahoo Warriors, in some ways the change would be more challenging than most and in other ways it would be less so.

It is always difficult to replace an extremely successful coach.  Mark Watton's situation had been symbolized at the celebration banquet held at the end of the 1993-1994 season when he was presented with a large pair of shoes.  Coach Mick Anderson's record of 292 wins over eighteen seasons and six state titles did indeed represent some big shoes.  And since those six titles had come in the last seven seasons, it was obviously not a situation where a long time coach's record had begun to decline and therefore a change was perhaps more welcomed.  In this case, the team and program Coach Anderson had built was in top form and was one of the most successful basketball dynasties in Nebraska state history.  Expectations were high and Coach Watton recognized it: "I'm sure, with the fans, and even with our kids, the feeling is that expectation of winning it all because it's been done here so many times in the last eight years."

Sometimes when a highly successful coach resigns his position there is a perception that he is leaving because he sees that the talent level he has been used to has dried up.  Some speculated that was the case with Coach Anderson as the 1994 team was one of the most senior dominated of his championship teams and the upcoming talent appeared to be a lot of untried sophomores.  But that was somewhat deceiving.  The junior varsity team had been nearly as dominant as the varsity, and as some would learn, that group of sophomores was not just an average group.  Nonetheless, Coach Watton would be inheriting a relatively inexperienced group of players.  Molding relatively inexperienced underclassmen into a championship team would be a challenge for any coach, much less one new to the job.

However, in spite of being new to the position, Coach Watton did bring some positives to the table.  He had been a very successful junior varsity coach under Mick Anderson for eight seasons and had posted an impressive 105 – 9 record in that position.  Still, many would point out that, while certainly a positive factor, coaching the varsity would be a new experience.  Coach Watton recognized the difference:  "There's definitely more pressure to win at this level.  When the JV team doesn't play well, people can shrug it off and not say too much.  But when the varsity doesn't play well … that's when people start getting concerned." 

Another factor working in Coach Watton's favor was the continuity he represented. The coaching staff remained relatively unchanged.  Watton's position as assistant coach was filled by newcomer Darwin Lehmann, but the freshman coaches and volunteer assistants that had been on Coach Anderson's staff remained.  This provided a stable approach that had helped achieve the phenomenal success of the program.  The characteristics that had become the identity of Warrior basketball would not change much.  Coach Watton noted that "we'll still play the 1-3-1, pressure the ball, get up and down the floor and look for a lot off the transition."

The problem of not having any senior starters was one challenge Coach Watton was quite ready to accept.  After all, he had coached this group at the junior varsity level and knew better than anybody what he was getting.  His appraisal:  "We may be asking these kids to mature a little more quickly and step in as leaders, but I think this group is capable of it."  And he was quite perceptive in his preseason evaluation:  "I think there's three or four kids that are definitely capable of scoring in double figures."  Another insight Coach Watton had about his roster was his awareness of the quality of his returning starter, Mike Simons.  Although just a junior, Coach Watton knew Simons could be something special:  "Mike has gained a lot of confidence in his ability.  He's gone against some of the best from around the nation (as a member of the Valentino's select team the previous summer) and I don't expect him to be intimidated by anyone he matches up with."

In balance, when the Warrior community looked forward to starting the season with a new coach, the view was encouraging.  But what about having a legend lurking in the shadows and looking over the coach's shoulder.  Maybe one of the most critical aspects of the change was Coach Anderson's willingness to keep hands off.  He was seen at some of the games, but was never a distraction.  As he put it, "I stay out of the way because I think that's best for Mark and the program."  But even so, when there was some adversity, Coach Watton admitted "I hear a few things here and there that this isn't like it was and that isn't exactly what somebody expected."  But whatever criticisms were expressed they mostly fell on deaf ears as Wahoo blasted its way through another successful season.  Coach Anderson provided some perspective:  "It's funny.  I hear some of the disgruntled remarks in the coffee shops about somebody saying something negative about the team and I think to myself, 'What an idiot.'  If you understood the amount of work it takes to just coach a team, and then to be 25 – 0, you'd never say those kinds of things." 

It would appear that challenges presented by a new coach taking over were handled well by a program that already deserved to be called a dynasty in 1995.  Coach Watton proclaimed, "I just want to keep the ball rolling."  The record posted by the 1995 Warriors seemed to do that.  Most fans and commentators would label it "another great Wahoo basketball season."  For some there would be an asterisk following that label.   But for most, even with a new coach, the 1995 Warriors would be "still the same."