After having only two metro-east coaches reach the 700-win mark in Illinois high school basketball history, two area coaches have an opportunity to do it in the same week.
Edwardsville Tigers coach Mike Waldo has 699 wins and could pick up No. 700 at home Tuesday when his team plays host to the DeSmet Spartans. The Tigers (20-1) are 25th in the nation in USA Today’s latest Super 25 rankings, second in the Class 4A state rankings and are first in the News-Democrat Large-School Poll.
Gibault Hawks coach Dennis Rueter has 698 wins and his team would need to beat city rival Waterloo on Tuesday and Mascoutah on Friday.
According to Illinois High School Association records, former Collinsville High coach Vergil Fletcher ranks fifth all-time in Illinois with 792 wins at Collinsville, Mount Pulaski and Pana. Former Okawville High coach Dave Luechtefeld ranks 12th on the all-time wins list with 738, compiled from 1962 to 2000.
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Some of Waldo’s former players recently recalled the important things they learned from him. Many had nothing to do with sports.
“He makes a point to teach you valuable lessons that go further than basketball,” said former Edwardsville guard Shawn Roundtree, a sophomore averaging 10.9 points at 24-1 Mineral Area Junior College in Missouri. “He’s taught me lessons about handling responsibility, being a man and most of all for being grateful for what you have.
“He’s going to be tough and he’s going to yell at you at times, but you learn to appreciate it in the long run. When you get out in the real world you’re not going to have people praising you all the time. Sometimes you’ve got to deal with that extra pressure.”
Waldo’s career record is 699-256, including a 618-205 mark at Edwardsville since taking over in 1987. He was 81-51 at Alton Marquette previously.
The Tigers have made five state tournament trips during Waldo’s tenure, finishing third in 2013 and fourth in 2014.
His success also stretches to the baseball diamond. During Waldo’s time as Edwardsville’s pitching coach since 1980, the Tigers have won nearly 1,100 games. They also own two state baseball championships and two second-place finishes.
His former players say Waldo leaves nothing to chance and is one of the area’s most detail-oriented coaches. His preparation and game plans include things that even Edwardsville opponents may not realize about themselves.
“He’s probably the most detailed and disciplined human being I’ve ever been around,” said Mark Allaria, the former Edwardsville High standout who later played at the University of Evansville. “His work ethic is just off the charts, to be honest with you. Most people have no idea the amount of time he puts in; I don’t think he needs sleep.
“His preparation for games is remarkable. He’s so far ahead on most things it’s amazing.”
Allaria played under Waldo from 1994-98, then later coached with him during the 2006-07 season as an assistant at Edwardsville.
“You didn’t always like him,” said Allaria, a former assistant coach at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville now working as a financial planner with Edwardsville-based CarsonAllaria Group/Visionary Wealth Advisors. “You didn’t always go home loving him, but you knew what he was doing what good for you. At the end of the day, you knew he loved you and he cared about you.”
Allaria comes across many situations where Waldo’s saying and life lessons still apply.
“I still can hear him in my day-to-day life now with things that I do that aren’t even related to basketball,” Allaria said. “How to be detailed on things, if you’re not motivated how to be motivated, things like that. The impact he has on everybody’s life extends far beyond basketball.”
Roundtree was always impressed by Waldo’s hard-driving work ethic.
“That man sacrifices so much time and sleep to make sure that his teams and his staff are well prepared for the next game,” Roundtree said. “They have everything need in order to win. That man is a winner.”
Those 699 victories did not come without a detailed plan of attack.
“He’s going to be the most prepared coach on the floor, without question,” Allaria said. “That’s why you see him so successful as a baseball coach, too, because it’s far beyond the X’s and O’s.
“If you made him the next badminton coach at Edwardsville High he’d be the best badminton coach in the area.”