"Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character."
That quote is from the most successful college basketball coach of all time John Wooden.
Wooden was the puppet master behind the most dominant college basketball program of all time in the UCLA Bruins. Wooden's quote above can easily explain the success of any basketball program from high school, college, or even the NBA. It means that most teams that have an abundance of talent will most likely succeed, but it takes character to be good year in and year out.
The Tamaqua boys basketball and Panther Valley girls basketball programs have not enjoyed much success over the years. The Raiders haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2004 and the Lady Panthers haven't seen the postseason since 2003. However, the 2012-13 season will mark the long awaited return for the Raiders and Panthers to the District 11 playoffs.
The Raiders have had one 20 win season since 1990, and only six winning campaigns in the last 23 years. It hasn't always been bad for Tamaqua boys basketball. The 1980's served as the glory years for Raiders where they had six 20 win seasons, including a 1982-83 trip to the AA State Championship.
Tamaqua is now looking to get back to the prominence the blue and white once stood for on the hardwood. The Raiders finished the season with a 13-9 record and have a good crop of young players that Tamaqua coach Caszy Kosciolek hopes can equate into some postseason victories and continued success in the years to come.
"It was important for our staff to try and create a basketball identity at the school," said Kosciolek. "For one reason or another over the years things just haven't worked here. I understand things go in cycles, but right now we have some nice pieces and hopefully this is that year that propels us to bigger and better things in the coming years."
The Lady Panthers program put together a nice run from 1997-2001 where they compiled an 83-32 record. With the 1998-99 season being their best, finishing the season with a 26-6 record and an appearance in the AA Eastern Final. Panther Valley also had a total of four 1,000-point scorers from 1995-2001.
The PV girls showed they were on the right track last season finishing the year one win shy of a postseason berth. This season the program got over the hump, finishing with a record of 11-11 and also playing competitively with the always talented teams in Division 1 of the Schuylkill League. A big change from years past where they have been the doormat since moving to the bigger school division.
"The biggest thing we wanted to do when we arrived here is that we wanted to change the basketball culture of the program," said Panther Valley coach Josh Wank. "That's what we've tried to do and you can see the changes in the way the girls play the game. I think last season was big for us. It's important to also instill a winning mentality and our program finally got some wins last season, which gave the girls some confidence. It's just nice to have finally climbed that mountain and get into the playoffs. The whole program should feel a sense of accomplishment."
The question is, after so many years of losing, what are some things a coaching staff must do to turn things around?
"I'm a proponent of kids playing as many sports as they can. They couldn't play enough sports as far as I'm concerned. The big thing is having a solid and structured off-season plan," said Kosciolek. Basketball is such a highly skilled game because you have to catch it, dribble it, pass it, shoot it and so on. So, if your opponents are playing and you're not then they're going to be better than you. That's what were working on here and hopefully the taste of getting in the playoffs shows our guys that this is how you get there."
It's evident that both the Tamaqua boys and Panther Valley girls have laid the foundation for success further down the road. The Raiders and Lady Panthers both have a young nucleus of talent, but only time will if they're able to consistently win year in and year out. Another John Wooden quote fits in well here and serves as a good message to any program that wants to continue to strive for greatness.
"Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability."