Wildwood coach approaching major milestone

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

Even after 35 years as the head girls basketball coach at Wildwood High School, there’s really nothing about the job that Dave Troiano doesn’t like.

That is, until someone asks him how long he’s going to continue to do it.

“At this point I don’t have any plans to stop,” the 65-year-old Troiano said early this week, answering a question that’s been asked numerous times by numerous people over the last few years. “Hopefully, I can stay healthy. People who’ve coached a long time always say that you’ll know when it’s time and I don’t have any feelings in that regard. I still enjoy it. Even the last four or five years where it’s been a bit frustrating at times because we haven’t been as successful, I’ve still enjoyed it. And I enjoy the whole aspect of it, not just one thing. I love being around the young kids, I love being around the coaches, seeing the referees and all the people … the whole thing.”

Already South Jersey’s all-time wins leader in girls basketball by a wide margin, Troiano is approaching another major milestone during his long career. Tuesday’s victory over Clayton left him only two wins shy of 600 for his career.

Coming off last year’s eight-win season, Troiano needed 12 victories prior to the season to reach 600. The players on this year’s team set a goal to win at least that many this season, so they could be part of the team that got their coach his 600th victory.

But now that the milestone is close and practically inevitable, there has been no mention of it.

“I haven’t mentioned one thing to the kids about this,” Troiano said. “No matter how long I coach in the future and how many wins we have, to me it’s always been about the kids and that’s the way it should be. The kids get the wins.

“Maybe I’ll make a decision in a game that helps us win. But I’ve probably made some decisions that have helped us lose some games over the years, too. It’s the kids who put it all on the line in every game and that’s in any sport. I’m not downplaying the significance of it but it’s the kids that get the wins for you.”

Anyone who coaches as long as Troiano has is bound to reach certain milestones. But his accomplishments leap off the page. He’s coached Wildwood to a combined 14 Cape-Atlantic and Tri-County division or conference titles, has won eight South Jersey championships and has collected four state championships. At this point, his 598 wins have come against only 290 losses, meaning his teams have won more than twice as many times as they’ve lost.

Troiano began coaching high school basketball in the early to mid 1970s as an assistant boys coach at Wildwood, first under the legendary Bernie McCracken and later under Mike Coront. (Coront would later become one of Troiano’s longtime assistants with the girls program.) He then took over the girls program at Wildwood in the 1977-78 season.

Girls basketball was a fledgling sport at that time. It now is one of the most popular high school sports – boys sports included – in the state.

“I think what really brought girls basketball along back then was that Ocean City, with Pat Dougherty coaching, had something like 100-some (actually 119) straight wins in the Cape-Atlantic League,” Troiano recalled. “The Ocean City program at that time set the bar that all the other schools were trying to catch up to. That was the program that everyone tried to emulate. … I would say for us, the late (19)80s and early (19)90s was when Wildwood girls basketball started to mature. It’s certainly a world of difference from when I first started.”

Troiano retired as a social studies teacher at Wildwood High School six years ago. He now runs a small landscaping operation that keeps him busy from spring through fall. Basketball continues to fill his time in the winter.

“I really haven’t thought about it that much but sometimes when you’re teaching all day and then going to practice or getting on a bus for an away game, that wears you down,” Troiano said. “Coaching gives me something to look forward to, especially in the wintertime. I love going to the gym in the afternoon. And now I have more time to plan, more time to look at video. I don’t know, (being retired from teaching) probably has extended my longevity as a coach a little bit.”

Troiano will always have a soft spot for his championship teams. But he equally enjoys clubs such as this season’s version of the Lady Warriors because, in his mind, they have overachieved so far. Tuesday’s victory over Clayton improved the team to 10-5.

“Based on last year’s (eight-win) team and the fact that we’re very small I really didn’t give getting to 600 much thought going into the year,” he said. “But now, hopefully it’s going to happen. This is a great group of kids. They’ve been tremendously enjoyable to coach. They play hard, they practice hard. Probably the biggest factor helping them is that they all pull for each other and get along. Any coach will tell you that’s not always the case.”

No South Jersey high school girls basketball coach can say he or she has 600 career victories, however. Soon, Troiano can.

blog comments powered by Disqus