Prep hoops: Miner Webster named national Coach of Year

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                </div>It has been an incredibly eventful year for Miner Webster.  And, by association, for high school girls basketball in the state of Arizona. The head coach at Highland High School in […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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It has been an incredibly eventful year for Miner Webster.  And, by association, for high school girls basketball in the state of Arizona.

The head coach at Highland High School in Gilbert reached a personal milestone in January when he notched the 700th win of his storied career working with girls’ programs.  And then he helped shine the spotlight on the state this month when he was named the national Coach of the Year for girls basketball by the National Coaches Association.

Webster wrapped up a 32-3 season at Highland earlier this year that brings his overall career record to 712-107.  If you do the math, you’ll see that means he has won 87 per cent of his games over a 35-year career.

OK, now consider this.  John Wooden won 80 percent of his games during his 27 years building a dynasty at UCLA.  And, on the high school level, Morgan Wootten won 87 percent.  Wootten, who retired in 2002 after 46 years at DeMatha Catholic High School in Maryland, is generally considered the best high school coach of his time.  Wooden once said of him: “I know of no finer coach – at any level.”

That puts the 60-year-old Webster is some pretty heady company.

It also says something to the rest of the country about the status of girls basketball in Arizona, when the top coach in the nation chooses to ply his trade here in the desert instead of at one of the national powerhouses on the other side of the country.  Girls basketball is still developing and growing in the Southwest, coming late to the party after long-established programs have built tradition and prestige in the East and in the Midwest.

As a girls high school coach who first coached in Michigan, I’m all too familiar with the challenge.

Despite some advances, it’s still difficult to compete on the national level with those schools, despite the fact that St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix has attained that level over the last few seasons.  The Knights were considered the No. 1 team in the nation just a couple of years ago.

Miner Webster has shown the consistency and dedication it takes to develop that kind of program as he built winning programs at Gilbert High School, where he spent five years and won two state girls championships, and then Highland, where he has stacked up six more state titles in his two decades directing the Highland girls program.

So it was only fitting that the City of Gilbert issued a proclamation declaring January 17 to be “Miner Webster Day.”  That was the date that his Lady Hawks beat Mesquite High, 44-21, to notch Webster’s win No. 700.

There is still one active coach in the state with more wins. Gary Ernst, the boys’ coach at Mountain View High School in Mesa, has piled up 785.  Last season was a down year, by Ernst’s standards, as his Toros finished 18-11.  He was coming off a 21-8 season in 2011/12 and 27-3 the year before that.  So it’s going to be a push to catch him.

Webster, too, started out coaching boys when he became the head coach at Parker High School in 1981.  He stayed there three years before moving to Gilbert High, where he eventually took over the girls’ program.  It was a move he thought would be temporary, but he never returned to the boys’ game.

If you add his wins at Parker to his resume, he would be somewhere in the mid-700’s.

Back surgery a year ago gave Webster a new lease on life and, since he’s been averaging 28 wins a season so far, that magical 800 number may be within reach.