Southridge's Werner reflects on 300th winNovember 22, 2019
BY COREY STOLZENBACH
HUNTINGBURG — Greg Werner said his players didn't know he got his 300th career victory on Tuesday, and that’s how he wanted it.
All he cared about was seeing the smiles on their faces after Southridge triumphed at Evansville Mater Dei, 48-41. Werner said it’s something his players can cherish when they look back on things after they're finished. He said it’s an honor, but added that it isn’t about him. Werner praised his players and coaching staff for helping make it happen.
“This isn’t something you do as one,” Werner said. “This is something you do as a team, from the water boy to water girl, all the way through our JV players, all the way through our varsity players, all the way through our coaching staff, our video crew. All that stuff. We stick together as one in order to be able to accomplish this.”
While in school, Werner weighed what he wanted to be as he was growing up. The 1991 Northeast Dubois graduate played in the front court for the Jeeps, and it was by the time of his last year that he decided he wanted to teach business and become a coach. His sport was baseball, and he played it at Oakland City University. But he loved basketball. He wanted others to experience his love for the game, and his players to work together as a team. Werner said coaching is teaching, and players will see the gains they need to have if they have a good teacher. He said players will fall in love with the game, too, if they see the improvements they are making.
He credited many of his coaches at Northeast Dubois with being an influence in his life. Werner said it started with junior high coach Duane Denu in eighth grade. He said Denu was tough, but knew he cared about him, and that Denu pushed his players to be good. Werner had a lot of respect for coach Brian Wilson, now the principal at Jasper, and his junior varsity coach, Rick Gladish. He also credited his high school basketball coach, Alan Matheis, and some of his younger coaches in Butch Bonifer and Gary Bair.
Southridge was where it all started for him. Werner did his student teaching at Southridge, and was a varsity assistant under Ray Roesner when he was a senior in college. Werner enjoyed his time under Roesner, and he undertook the coach’s mantle midway through the 1994-95 season when Southridge needed a freshman boys coach. What followed next was when he began coaching girls varsity at Washington Catholic during the 1995-96 season.
Werner doesn't remember his first win at Washington Catholic, but does remember that first team won five games. He called his first season there a rebuilding situation, and likened it to the current Southridge team in terms of youth. The Cardinals got better when he was there, winning multiple regional titles. He left after 2001-02 and coached the next two seasons at Greenburg, going 14-28 in the process. Most of his wins, though, have come at Southridge, where he first took over the varsity girls team in 2004-05 and won sectional championships in 2007 and 2014. Werner is 196-80 in two stints as coach of the Raiders.
There are some losses that stick out to Werner in his time as a coach. He recalled losing in the sectional semifinal in overtime in 2012 against Evansville Mater Dei, who went on to win its first of two consecutive Class 2A state championships. Werner recalled the Wildcats having size, while Southridge was a small school. He said it still meant a lot even though Southridge lost.
“It gives your kids an opportunity to know that they can be as good as anybody,” he said.
Werner talked about the regional championships at Washington Catholic and sectional championships at Southridge as some of his more memorable wins, but also remembered when the Raiders met No. 1 Princeton in the sectional semifinal in 2016. The Tigers had Jackie Young, now of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces. Werner said Young was one of the best players he’s ever seen as a coach and likened her to LeBron James. She helped lead Princeton to a 53-game winning streak and a state championship as a junior in 2015. Her team lost only one game when she was a senior, and it was against Werner’s Raiders, 34-33.
“The biggest win has to be the Princeton game, and kids executing the game plan to perfection,” he said.
Werner said he got a sour taste in his mouth, though, from not being able to finish off the sectional tournament, as Southridge fell to Vincennes Lincoln in the championship game.
Werner is in the midst of trying to bring back a winning culture to the Raiders after three years away from the team. They are 4-3, and didn’t get their fourth win last year until Jan. 8. Southridge won all of four games two years ago. He said the first thing that's needed is trust, and trust is built through communication and relationships. Werner said his players will do what they need to do if he can build relationships as a coach. He added the players must have the want and desire to be successful, which the current Southridge team has had, but cannot lose it.
He said Southridge still has a way to go, but “absolutely” has been making progress. Werner knows the Raiders can move forward if they stay healthy. He will try to get win No. 301 in Southridge’s next game on Monday at Boonville.
“They’re starting to get it,” Werner said. “They've just got to start getting more consistent.”
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